Milan prosecutors and the Italian Labour Inspectorate have jointly ordered four major food delivery platforms to fully hire over 60,000 couriers — and pay a total of €733 million in fines.
Couriers who worked for Uber Eats, Glovo, Just Eat and Deliveroo in Italy from 2017 to 2020 must now be treated as “coordinated and continuous workers,” prosecutors declared.
If the companies pay the fines within 90 days, they will be able to avoid criminal proceedings — but legal experts say it’s a little more complicated than that.
Should the platforms hire all 60,000 couriers, there’s a high price to pay to catch up on previous, missed social security payments, said European labor law specialist Luca de Vecchi. Social security contributions in Italy can amount to up to 33 percent of an employee’s salary and must be paid by the employer.
This poses a “very difficult decision” for the companies, de Vecchi added. Trying to appeal and fight the case in court risks criminal sanctions on the company managers, but accepting the fines could lead to the companies’ demise.
“I don’t know how they could manage to pay and remain alive,” he said.
Health and safety
The sanctions are linked to alleged violations of health and safety regulations, following an investigation into driver accidents.
“It is no longer the time to say that riders are slaves, the time has come to say that they are citizens who need legal protection,” said Milan’s chief prosecutor Francesco Greco in an online press conference, according to Italian media.
“This is a very heavy blow to the platform narrative, to their business model based on false autonomy and the abuse of occasional work, on the denial of any right and the infringement of laws and contracts,” added the Deliverance Milano syndicate group in a Facebook post. “There is no more time to waste: hiring and rights immediately, enough with precariousness and exploitation!”
The Assodelivery group — which represents the likes of Uber, Deliveroo, Glovo and JustEat — said they were “surprised” by the prosecutor’s decision.
“The platforms, despite the specific differences, have operated in recent years in compliance with current regulations, including the classification of workers and workplace safety regulations,” the group said in an emailed statement. “We therefore disagree with the picture illustrated today.”
Attention will now turn to the platforms, and “whether they will go back to negotiate with the minister of labour and the representative trade unions to try to solve the issue,” said labor law expert Valerio de Stefano.
A negotiated settlement might be the most likely outcome, de Vecchi said.
“I think that at the end of the story there will be a compromise solution that will allow these companies to stay active — probably a limited fine without any criminal prosecution,” said de Vecchi. “But on the other end, they will be forced to change their operational model and to have a different standard in terms of employees’ rights and guarantees.”
The ruling comes off the back of a U.K. supreme court ruling that declared Uber drivers to be “workers” rather than self-employed contractors, as well as a recent Dutch appeals court decision that Deliveroo drivers are employees — signs of changing times in the gig economy.
“What’s for sure is that it is basically more and more clear: we cannot pretend anymore that these people are just genuinely self-employed as if they were small undertakings — they are workers that should be protected as such,” de Stefano said.
Giorgio Leali contributed reporting.
Source : www.politico.eu