Riders have become a symbol of a changing world of work that needs better security measures. Delivering everything from food to cigarettes by bikes or scooter, these workers are at the centre of the debate concerning a changing world of work. Straddling bikes, colourful thermal boxes mounted on their shoulders, they have become a common sight in many of Italy’s big cities. The Italian government has begun national talks with companies, trade unions and independent associations representing workers. It aims to draw up new contracts that guarantee better job security. But many of the country’s cities have already started taking steps locally to guarantee safety and improve working conditions for riders.
The first city to draw up its own Rights Charter for riders was Bologna, under pressure from Riders Union, an independent delivery workers’ organisation. The Charter stipulates that remuneration must not fall below the minimum wage set forth in collective labour agreements. It also introduces new job security measures: compensatory allowance for work at night, on national holidays or in poor weather conditions, insurance requirements, and ten hours of paid trade union leave.
We hope that delivering food and retail goods in cities will be increasingly performed using green transport, but those travelling the streets must develop a collective attitude of caring for the city, for development and for safety.
Bologna wants to be a forerunner in the matter, but it is no coincidence that Milan has signed the same Rights Charter. “This is the first step towards a partnership that we hope will grow to involve the main cities already seeing this phenomenon - such as Turin, Florence and Rome - as it is becoming a widespread but under-regulated one,” said Cristina Tajani, Deputy Mayor of Labour in Milan. “We hope that delivering food and retail goods in cities will be increasingly performed using green transport, but those travelling the streets - especially those doing so for work and for concentrated periods of time - must develop a collective attitude of caring for the city, for development and for safety. I believe that the huge task Milan and Bologna have undertaken can and must be put to a roundtable of authorities and institutions. This will certainly bring about improvements and a new beginning.”
With more than 3,000 riders, Milan is the home of food delivery in Italy. The city has proposed providing these workers with a ‘licence’. These ‘gig’ workers have requested and been granted the opportunity to enter into discussions with companies, unions and the local authority. They have also introduced a dedicated help service - the first initiative of its kind in Italy - to hear their problems, educate them and offer free consultancy on matters concerning road safety and delivery workers’ employment rights, in addition to help services already set up by unions.
In addition to the help service, students at Milan’s ‘School of Art and Message’ are launching a marketing campaign that aims to promote safety. From September, the Council will also table free educational courses. The topics will range from road safety to safety in the workplace and basic hygiene and sanitation rules for transporting food. Tajani says that, in anticipation of a defined, contractual framework and in their role as “the first local authority interested in the food delivery phenomenon,” the Milan Council wants “to provide a help service where individuals can find support for their demands.”
And in Rome a Riders Union of delivery workers has been set up, based on the Bologna model. It was immediately called to participate in discussions with the Lazio Regional Government which, in June, became the first to approve a law to protect riders. After a series of consultations with companies, the delivery workers and unions, a package of regulations was passed that protects workers on all health- and safety-related matters. This was followed by an online registration system, a digital platform to which riders can subscribe. In line with the council’s intentions, the law guarantees delivery workers better rights and job security. In particular, it declares that they must be paid on an hourly basis instead of for the number of deliveries made. They will thus remain ‘independent workers’ but the food delivery companies - such as Foodora and Deliveroo - must take out insurance to cover riders against accidents, professional illnesses, damage to third parties and maternity and paternity leave. The council still needs to approve the official text.
The problem lies, however, in the fact that a regional law of this kind breaches article 117 of the Constitution, which awards the State - and therefore not the Regions - exclusive jurisdiction on this subject. The same issue would arise in Lombardy, where the regional government has also begun discussions for a regional law concerning delivery workers and is in the process of consulting companies and various lawyers specialising in employment rights.
As such, on a national level, after the first clashes between the government’s executive branch and the food delivery companies, the gates have been opened for consultation with companies and trade unions or independent unions for delivery workers. And at the first round of discussions the idea was floated of creating a national collective labour agreement for riders. As Italian Minister of Labour, Luigi di Maio, has said, “It is up to us to establish what constitutes legal employment and what does not. And to take that step, we need dialogue, consultation ad nauseum.” In the meantime, however, the cities have begun to take steps in the matter.