By Emilio Parodi
MILAN (Reuters) – Milan prosecutors said on Wednesday they had ordered four major food delivery companies to officially hire more than 60,000 workers and pay a total of 733 million euros ($889 million) in fines after an investigation showed their working conditions were inadequate.
The investigation, which was launched in July 2019 after a number of road accidents involving the so-called riders, targeted Spanish food delivery app Foodinho-Glovo and the Italian units of food ordering companies Uber (NYSE:) Eats, Just Eat and Deliveroo, the prosecutors said.
“The vast majority of these riders are employed with occasional self-employment contracts … but it emerged without a shadow of a doubt that … they are fully included in the organisation of the company,” Deputy Prosecutor Tiziana Siciliano said during a briefing.
The investigation also revealed that the workers were managed by an IT platform which ranked the riders according to performance.
“This system actually forces the rider to accept all orders in order not to be demoted in the ranking and then have less work,” she added. “This is the reason why it is impossible to take holidays or sick leave.”
As part of the provision, the companies are also asked to pay riders overdue contributions and provide them with adequate equipment, such as bicycles with lighting or suitable clothing.
Just Eat said in a statement it had launched an internal investigation to check on the safety conditions of its workers. It added its newly launched business model will help “introduce a safer, more controlled and direct system with our workers, as employees”.
Uber Eats, Foodinho-Glovo and Deliveroo Italy said they did not agree with the findings of the Milan prosecutors.
“The online food delivery is an industry that operates in full compliance with the rules and is able to guarantee an essential service,” they said in a joint statement.
So-called quick commerce has boomed in the past year as the pandemic forced people to stay at home and shop online, with companies like Glovo reporting a jump in courier services.
On Wednesday the European Commission took a step towards improving the rights of gig economy workers with the launch of a public consultation to determine their legal employment status and how to improve their working conditions.
The chief prosecutor Francesco Greco added that a separate tax investigation was launched into the Italian unit of Uber Eats.
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