Not all of Just Eat’s orange-clad couriers were replaced with salaried contracts, and the company continued to use freelancers hired through contracting companies to fulfill some of its orders. Under French labor law, workers and unions have four months to fight the restructuring of Just Eat. If they lose, Rioux expects the lost contracts to be replaced with on-demand workers who technically work for Stuart, a French contracting firm. Going from a Just Eat employee to a gig worker for Stuart would be a major change, he says. “Stuart couriers have virtually no rights, they are paid on delivery and access to social protection is very low.” Stuart declined to comment.
France is not the only country where the rights of gig workers are being rolled back. Gorillas – a grocery delivery app that pledged not to use construction workers from the outset – is shutting down operations in large parts of Europe. In places like Belgium, Gorillas’ retirement means his couriers lose access to fixed employment contracts and company insurance, and instead return to freelance work at Uber Eats and Deliveroo. The same thing happened when another German delivery company, Jokr, which hired couriers as employees, withdrew from the United States in June.
In countries where the employee model survives, workers are under increasing pressure to do more. Just Eat couriers in Paris, who do not expect their employment contracts to be affected by the restructuring, have already started to see changes. “Before December, Paris was divided into zones: Paris southeast, southwest, northeast, northwest, center,” a Paris-based courier told WIRED, asking to remain anonymous. “In January, everything merged. Everything has become “Paris”. This means that since January, I have been receiving orders from across town. Now he says he can cycle more than 50 kilometers a day and end up 20 kilometers from home at the end of his shift.
In Gorillas’ home country of Germany, the company submitted a proposal to the local works council to give its 25% fastest couriers access to better shifts.
Europe is ahead of other countries, such as the United States, in terms of protecting platform workers, and the European Commission is preparing new rules that would govern the platform economy. But even if runners get guarantees they’ll earn minimum wage, the dynamics of the fast delivery industry make it difficult to keep those gains, says Katie Wells, who studies platform workers at Georgetown University in Washington. , DC. “There are such thin margins in this workplace and companies are so incredibly unequal in their distribution of power that workers have no ability to retain any of the protections that have been granted to them,” she says.
Instead, the contradictions of the gig economy persist. While investors doubt that it’s possible to employ couriers and make a profit, some workers’ rights advocates question whether the economy of the delivery industry means good working conditions can exist there. Wells says she has yet to see an example. “Is it possible? Of course,” she said. “A lot of crazy things are happening in the world.”