A few days ago, the chronicle of this event would have been very different. One year has passed since the entry into force of the Rider Law, approved by the Government to prevent Systematic abuse of false self-employed in home delivery through companies like Glovo, Deliveroo and Uber Eats. Until Monday, the panorama was that of a sector that was forced to modify its hiring systems, to sign labor contracts for riders through different formulas. Except for one multinational, which defied the norm: Glovo, the largest company in the sector. But at the beginning of this week, the photo changed. Uber Eats, another of the largest delivery companies, announced that it would have autonomous distributors again, a model that he abandoned due to the Rider Law. His message: if Glovo can continue distributing with freelancers, so can the rest.
The Uber Eats movement places two of the largest companies in the sector "in rebellion" and shakes the effectiveness of the Rider Law on its first birthday. It is no longer a loose verse against all the others, no matter how important this one (Glovo) is, which was expected to abide by the legislation sooner or later. Now a company that had complied with the labor regulation imitates his position and decides to retrace his steps.
Although the Ministry of Labor insists that "there are no fights against the law" and warns that infractions will have consequences, at this time the panorama of rebellious companies has expanded. To questions from this medium, Uber Eats does not back down on its intentions despite Labor warnings, even from potential criminal liability to non-compliant platforms.
Julio (fictitious name), a Venezuelan rider who was touring Madrid's Gran Vía at noon this Thursday, explains that he has already sent his papers to distribute as a freelancer again on Uber Eats. In his case, the self-employment model allows him to earn more money than an employment contract, he says, because he works many more hours a day. From morning to night, with some rest. "It is what it is, I have to cover expenses."
Another colleague comes out of a fast food chain a few meters away, he is also Venezuelan. "Like the vast majority of riders," he laughs. In his case, he still does not have a work permit and can only distribute as a freelancer, so it is his way of earning income.
María, of the same nationality, carries a backpack from a smaller delivery company, with which she has an indefinite employment contract. "I earn just over 1,200 euros a month, which improves with tips," she explains. The young woman is grateful to have the stability of a contract, "that you go on vacation with peace of mind and you know that your salary will come just the same."
The Rider Law tried to reinforce the employment status of digital platform deliverers, the so-called riders, who had already verified Numerous Labor Inspection records and sentences in court, but without the companies changing their business model. Employment or self-employment status is not something that is chosen according to what is best for the company or the worker, but is defined by the relationship between the two, by how the activity is carried out.
Companies such as Glovo, Deliveroo and Uber Eats, whose businesses consist of home deliveries (especially food), did not have their couriers contracted, but rather they were self-employed, which meant savings in labor costs for multinationals and a decrease in income to Social Security in social contributions.
With the Supreme Court ruling on Glovo, and then on Deliveroo, the high court also dismantled the supposed autonomy of the messengers. The magistrates warned of the existence of a camouflaged employment relationship, in which the platforms and their algorithms were not mere intermediaries between consumers and restaurants, but rather commanded the delivery men and organized their work.
Even so, the delivery platforms continued to operate with freelancers. Only one of the big ones, Just Eat, operated under a labor model, based on subcontracting.
With this panorama, the Ministry of Labor decided to regulate a presumption of employment of messengers through the Rider Law to force companies to abide by the legislation. Despite the convictions and resolutions of the labor authority, Glovo, Deliveroo and Uber Eats were taking refuge in the fact that the current legal framework "was not clear" and that the sanctions were based on old algorithmic systems, already modified. So they kept working.
The Rider Law, which Labor agreed with the majority employers and unions after a long negotiation, was born with the aim of tying the issue. Expressly establish this employment relationship in a new legal text to force companies to hire their messengers.
At first it succeeded, with changes in the sector that had not been achieved until now, for example in companies like Uber Eats and even in Deliveroo, which before leaving the country hired all the riders to apply a collective dismissal and leave Spain without open conflicts with the authorities. But Glovo got off the hook of the legislation: he became the only actor who resisted the labor model. He kept the business with autonomous riders (with some changes for which he defends his legality), which has been a disadvantage for his competitors, as Uber Eats and Just Eat have denounced. Finally, Uber Eats has taken a cue from him.
The pulse of the legislation has resulted in several warnings from the Ministry of Labor, which has raised the tone against non-compliance and has also pointed out restaurants and establishments that make use of these distribution systems outside the law as possible culprits. .
"I insist: there are no business models that can challenge labor rights," said the Secretary of State for Employment, Joaquín Pérez Rey, in an interview in the middle of his vacation before the announcement of Uber Eats. "And in the face of any challenge, obviously, the State, the Ministry of Labor, the Labor and Social Security Inspectorate have the necessary instruments to demand responsibilities and, naturally, make sure that the law is complied with in all its dimensions," he pointed out.
Among the consequences – and this is new – the head of Labor after Vice President Yolanda Díaz warned of possible criminal responsibilities of the platforms, which he pointed out for a "flagrant and announced" breach of the law. One step, the criminal prosecution, which has not occurred in Spain to date despite requests from unions and groups such as RidersxDerechos in the face of Glovo's attitude.
"Right now the Prosecutor's Office has more than enough arguments to initiate criminal proceedings," considers Adrián Todolí, professor of Labor Law and expert in digital platforms, who recalls that this path has already been taken by countries like France and Italy.
Todolí considers that the Government should "take another step", through criminal proceedings, to enforce the legislation. "Here the problem was not the law", since the Supreme ruled that there was an abuse of false self-employed already with the previous legislation, recalls the professor. "An attempt was made to use the law to force companies to comply and it was done well because there was even an agreement with the employers for it, but these digital companies have shown that they do not work that way, by the most traditional way," he values.
The CCOO and UGT unions defend the legislation and the labor model for the guarantee of rights for workers. "Many of these riders will enjoy a previously unrecognized summer period of paid vacation these days. They will have the right to sick leave and social protection in the future, such as unemployment and pension contributions. We believe that their situation", values Carlos Gutiérrez, from CCOO.
With the departure of Deliveroo from Spain, for example, groups of riders who defended the self-employed model entered the ERE to negotiate the rights of couriers, who they only had as employees. "As freelancers, nothing would have corresponded to them," they remember in CCOO. The same thing happened when Uber Eats unilaterally disconnected all its autonomous riders with the entry into force of the Rider Law and that led many groups, including unions, to challenge a covert ERE. The Supreme has just reopened this casereaffirming the legitimacy of CCOO and UGT to sue the multinational.
At UGT, they also recall that "Spanish regulation has served to promote a European directive aimed at improving the working conditions of the platforms, which seeks that workers can do so in fair and equitable conditions and that the rights to health, dignity and safety are respected, guaranteeing quality working conditions". A directive that follows the steps of Spanish law on several points, such as the obligation of transparency of algorithms that affect the working conditions of workers.
The unions, however, demand that the Government reinforce the protection of the norm so that it is complied with and to be able to improve the working conditions of the messengers. Just Eat claims the same: "The regulator must have the necessary resources and mechanisms to enforce the law and adapt its administrative and regulatory tools to a sector as dynamic and essential as ours."
In CCOO they insist that, without a forceful response, a "sense of frustration" and "mockery of the State" can be generated by several companies that would leave the rule of law in a very bad place and would set a bad precedent for the future .