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Article

Commentary: Italy emerges as next front in gig economy labour battle

8 April 2021

Last year, Daniele, a third-party delivery driver for Amazon in Italy, noticed that hundreds of euro in traffic tickets were being deducted from his €1,600 monthly salary. But far from being a careless driver, he claimed, his speeding and parking offences had been necessitated by the company’s demanding schedule.

“We are held hostage by an algorithm which calculates daily routes for us and demands an average of 140 deliveries during an eight-hour shift,” he said during a strike...

Amazon Italia rejected the suggestion that delivery providers are put under undue pressure by the company’s algorithm, arguing that its workers are all beneficiaries of national collective bargaining...

The protest, which was the first nationwide action among Amazon’s 9,500 Italian staff, hints at trouble ahead for gig companies in Italy. The country, which has unusually steep employment costs and an aggressive government stance on workers’ rights, is fast emerging as the next major front in the companies’ escalating global battle over labour laws.

Last month, Italian gig economy workers scored a big victory when a Milan court fined food delivery platforms €733 million for violating employment safety laws, and said riders should be hired on a quasi-employee basis. The ruling came less than a year after the Milan court launched an investigation into Uber Eats’ recruitment practices and placed the company’s Italian subsidiary into external administration.

Meanwhile, prime minister Mario Draghi’s new coalition government is working with Spain to draw up new regulation for workers on digital platforms, and pushing for co-ordination on gig workers’ rights across the European Union...

The actions come as the employment models of gig companies across Europe are being increasingly challenged...

For the time being, Rome has stopped short from imposing employee status on gig workers. But with a steady rise of unemployment across the country, gig delivery jobs have recently become the only possible source of income for many Italians, sparking a heated political debate over a sector that until recently was considered niche...

Some of the major platforms are already taking steps to safeguard the future of their Italian operations. Last week, Deliveroo, UberEats, Glovo and SocialFoods accepted the ministry’s invitation to join a bargaining table with workers’ unions...