The Superior Court of Justice of Madrid (TSJM) has ruled that a deliveryman of the Spanish start-up Glovo is not a false self-employed. The ruling equals the number of sentences endorsing Glovo’s business model with the number of sentences in favor of the ‘riders’.
The Spanish start-up, founded in Barcelona four years ago, has become an international platform operating in more than 20 countries worldwide with millions of users. Its case is not very different from many other digital platforms that have succeeded and share a common concern: lack of regulation.
No legal framework has been agreed for Glovo’s deliverymen. So, while the start-up keeps expanding, new court proceedings keep coming up. The latest ruling on October 7 gave the reason to the company, endorsing the self-employed status of Glovo’s riders. “Deliverymen’s freedom of choice of the time slot, the possibility of refusing an order even after it has begun to be executed or the freedom to choose the route to reach the destination set by the customer,” were some of the grounds on which the judgment was based.
Far from clarifying the situation, this verdict highlights the division of views on the issue in the Spanish Justice. After 18 rulings on individual cases, neither the company nor the riders have achieved legal certainty. However, if the case reaches the Supreme Court, judges will unify doctrine.
Although the last Glovo’s sentence is final, the fact that other judges have ruled the opposite on equal cases makes it appealable to the highest judicial instance. It will be the Supreme Court who decides whether the case met the necessary conditions for pronouncement.
Other collective trials on deliverymen’s labor status
Glovo is not the only app struggling in court. The British company Deliveroo has different judicial proceedings opened in Spain. In its case, the trials have not only focused on individual cases. This summer a Court of Madrid ruled that 537 Deliveroo riders working in the Spanish capital were employees operating under a false appearance of self-employed. The same judgment was dictated by a Court of Valencia affecting 97 riders a few weeks before.
Madrid’s judge exposed that the Deliveroo riders “had executed a personal work under conditions organized and directed by the company, which is the only one that controls the Deliveroo brand, the digital application, and all the information about it.” The judge of Valencia also pointed out that “the real means of production are not the bicycle and the mobile that the rider uses but the digital platform that matches the supply and demand, which is owned by the company.”
For the time being, the delivery sector keeps awaiting a final doctrine that clearly defines the figure of riders and its labor relationship with home-delivery companies. Both Glovo and Deliveroo have asked the Spanish government to remove the regulatory obstacles that prevent their business models from expanding faster. The companies agree that there must be a legal framework that will not destroy the business model “which has proven practical and useful for all parties involved.”
Meanwhile, Spanish riders ask the Executive for protection against precariousness. Deliverymen are not back by collective agreements, they must finance the necessary means to do their activity, and they must pay their own Social Security fees under the status of self-employed.
The EU will “address” the situation digital platform workers
During the hearing sessions last week at the European Parliament to form the new European Commission, commissioner Margrethe Vestager said that riders should “be able to form unions to defend their rights.” The Danish candidate expressed her intention to address the situation of digital platform workers during her next mandate as Executive Vice President for “A Europe Fit for the Digital Age”, although she did not give much detail on the issue.