With the EU eyeing to make gig work ‘better’ for freelancers, various platforms are taking up the same mantle to provide ‘fairer conditions for their workers.
Spain-based Glovo, an on-demand delivery platform recently announced what it termed as ‘The Couriers Pledge’ aimed at committing its business to what it sees as ‘fairer’ social standards for its couriers.
These standards cover a number of issues ranging from safety, earnings, support for development opportunities and communication.
With 74000 couriers operating in countries spanning Europe and Africa and with plans to increase to 240,000 couriers in two years, the pledge if effected would touch a lot of workers.
These improvements will however not be applied in a few days but rather, according to co-founder Sacha Michaud, gradually over a 24-month period to take into consideration local differences in regulations and operational conditions.
This also means that these pledges will not be applied uniformly as again there are differences in local conditions and more importantly, laws.
The first country to ‘benefit’ from this change will be Morocco and Georgia with other countries, especially in Europe, set to be rolled out gradually. It is interesting to note that Spain, which is Glovo’s home market is not covered in the initial rollout.
Glovo has however stated it aims to have its whole fleet of couriers covered by the end of 2023, with just over a half being covered by the end of Q2 2022.
Now while this might sound like good news, at least according to Glovo, it is important to go through these standards and pledges to find out whether they will make gig work really fairer.
Fairwork Involvement Vilification?
As part of its charm offensive, Glovo wrote that it collaborated with a Fairwork – an academic research project which benchmarks gig platforms against a set of fairness principles. Fairwork, Glovo states, was instrumental in helping develop the contents of the pledge and its ‘pillars.’
Fairwork is however not as enthusiastic about this ‘collaboration’ stating the pledges as only a “first step toward improving conditions.”
This shows that there is still a lot of room for improvement.
Glovo however seems to put a lot of stock into these pledges and their apparent vote of confidence (or vilification) by Fairwork. They even go on to reiterate that Fairwork received no payment for this oversight work to preserve its independence.
Transparency and publicity of these pledges have been key to Glovo’s strategy.
Speaking to TechCrunch, they say:
“We identified that this is the right thing to do and we’re going to commit openly to doing that. We need a window to execute on that in the different regions for the complexity of our business from an operations perspective and regulatory and we’ll find a way to make it happen in every single country — and the ones we launch in the future as well.”
Glovo went on to describe the goals of the pledge as being plugs to what he deems are ‘gaps’ in the fairness of couriers’ working conditions.
“There’s some gaps still,” says Michaud. “As a company — and other platforms as well — I think we need to fill those gaps.
“Our commitment to the pledge is to try and cover the gaps and improve them, and make a commitment that by a certain date — the end of 2023 — that any courier on our platform will have certain minimum guarantees or social rights.”
Here are the four ‘important components that Glovo lists in its ‘Couriers Pledge’ and how it defines them:
“Fair earnings per hour should be secured and regular collaboration has to be rewarded.”
“All couriers must have fully-fledged insurances covering any unforeseen situation. Safety on the road has to be a top priority.”
“We will hear and act upon couriers’ needs and issues in a transparent manner following a two-way communication.”
Caring for Couriers
“Working as a rider should be a temporary thing. Fostering learning opportunities and keeping an open dialogue is a key goal.”
It is important to note here that Michaud’s initiative was not branded as an all-out ‘Glovo Couriers Pledge’, rather Michaud insisted that the initiative is ‘open’ so that other delivery platforms might be encouraged to sign upon.
Gig platform competitor Uber however did already come up with its suggestion for “for a new standard for platform work” for Europe earlier in the year. It effectively published a whitepaper to lobby the EU into adopting a style similar to the one they enjoy in California.
Such lobbying might however be a warning sign as to the sincerity of these initiatives. It shows that gig platforms might be more interested in their bottom line at the expense of their workers’ welfare.