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Spotlight on Spain: gig workers take heart from court support

As California voters back Prop22 that will make Uber and Lyft exempt from labour law, a member of our Delivery Guild reflects on the recent good news closer to home.

Something is shifting in Spain. A decision from the Spanish Supreme Court on the irregular status of self-employed riders could rock the platform economy as we know it.

Credit: VÍCTOR SAINZ, El Pais

Two years ago, a Spanish court issued the first judgment regarding the situation of riders. Since then, a number of courts have judged that the employment relationship between riders and platforms is a fraud. However, the announcement on 23 September is the first time that a decision about this matter has issued from the Supreme Court.

The court ruled that delivery riders are employees, not freelance or self-employed workers.

In the judgement, the Spanish delivery food start-up Glovo is described as “not a mere intermediary in the contracting of services between businesses and distributors”, since the company possesses the power to fix the conditions of how the service is carried out, as well as owning the key assets for this purpose, among which the app is a core element. Besides, the theoretical freedom of the riders to choose whether they are working or not is threatened by the chance of “losing her/his job”.

The decision states that the workers of Glovo are not self-employed, but employees. The consequences of such a sentence will affect the gig economy as a whole, and gig work may now change in the country. Already, the Spanish Government has announced that a regulatory framework for certain kinds of platform firms will be lunched after a public discussion.

It must be pointed out that the decision comes after a complaint filed by Isaac Cuende, a veteran rider who suffered a difficult situation after having an accident during the working hours.

In Scotland and the UK, riders and drivers already know that to organise and face the issues head on is the only way out of the current conditions of risk. Free accident insurance schemes are a reality which never would happen without protests. Once again, changes have come due to the actions taken by the workers, no matter how they are legally defined or the industry which they represent.