CoopCycle is the European federation of bicycle delivery cooperatives. Democratically governed by cooperatives, it is based on solidarity between them and allows them to reduce their costs through resources pooling. It creates a collective bargaining force to protect bikers’ rights.
Scope of the initiative
CoopCycle has three main activities:
- To develop the shared back-end software to take the bike-delivery co-operatives online. The CoopCycle software is a web platform available through a website and a smartphone app. Although the software code is public, it can only be used commercially by cooperative companies. The platform serves as an intermediary between customers, bike delivery cooperatives and merchants. It allows customers and restaurant owners to make and prepare the order and helps cooperatives to manage their fleet and distribute tasks. The platform supports electronic payments. It also allows users to connect to external e-commerce software through an application programming interface (API). The platform is also versatile when it comes to language or framework.
- To provide legal and business consultancy services to cooperatives. CoopCycle helps platform workers to self-organize and create cooperatives. Moreover, CoopCycle also guides them in the beginning by offering advice on the business model, optimization of operations, insurance and other aspects. When providing advice CoopCycle aims to ensure that cooperatives provide good working conditions, reliable group insurance contracts and decent wages to workers.
- To coordinate advocacy efforts. CoopCycle is collaborating with local and national labour unions as well as other stakeholders to promote better working conditions for platform workers.
To gain access to the CoopCycle platform, individual riders or established cooperatives for bike delivery riders must contact CoopCycle which verifies their eligibility. They are admitted only if two conditions are met: riders must be organized in a legal cooperative and the cooperative must fit with the definition of social economy actors as defined by the European Union. The latter means that cooperatives must be governed collectively (meaning one person - one vote), provide social protection and insurance (for example, in case of accidents, for the bycicles, etc.) and pooling of tools (such as software, marketing, etc.). Moreover, CoopCycle aims to ensure good working conditions for workers. These conditions are usually prescribed in the form of charters and integrated in the internal regulations of cooperatives.
Cooperatives provide membership fees to CoopCycle, which account for 51% of CoopCycle’s funding. The rate of the membership fee is 3% of the turnover of the previous year (only a small amount of capital is demanded from new cooperatives in the first year). CoopCycle expects that in the long-term membership fees will increase to 5% of the turnover of the previous year. In addition, 13% of CoopCycle funding comes from contributions of restaurants and merchants, 12% from services provided to business partners, 12% from public subsidies (regional government grants) and 12% from volunteers.
Through cooperatives, platform workers become full employees of the cooperative and receive a permanent contract (Contrat à Durée Indéterminée, CDI). This status ensures that platform workers in the cooperative have full access to social protection (unemployment insurance, sick leave, etc.), professional insurance and other benefits that are guaranteed to employees in France. Within a cooperative, the salary of a platform worker consists of two components: a fixed component that does not change and a variable component depending on the individual platform worker’s contribution to the total revenue of the cooperative. Three years after joining the cooperative, the employee is obliged to become an associate of the employment and activity cooperative. As associates, employees participate in the democratic decision-making process within the cooperative.
Scale of the initiative
CoopCycle is used by cooperatives in 6 European Union countries (Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Spain, France, Poland) as well as by cooperatives in the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada. It covers between 200 and 300 platform workers from 70 cooperatives.
CoopCycle has two employees: the founder (full-time) and a coordinator (part-time). Additionally, around 30 people are working on the governance, licensing and other issues as volunteers.
Strengths and weaknesses
Guiding the cooperatives through legal and business aspects of the platform work in addition to providing the software has proven beneficial for growing the cooperatives and scaling up the CoopCycle platform. CoopCycle supports the cooperatives throughout the entire process of establishment including with preparing and submitting the documents to the government or negotiating customized group insurance deals.
Moreover, CoopCycle also provides business advice – prioritisation and organization of operations, building and expanding the client database, internal governance, etc. This contributes to the growth of the newly established cooperatives and to an increase in contributions to CoopCycle. For instance, CoopCycle has experienced a tenfold growth over past 4 years (from 6 French cooperatives in 2016 to more than 60 international cooperatives in 2020). This speaks to the demand for such an initiative.
In terms of impact on affiliated workers, the main strength of the CoopCycle is the requirement to set up a legal cooperative. This helps to ensure that workers are provided with social protection and insurance, as well as other benefits (e.g. sick leave, annual leave, etc.).
The funding of the initiative is based largely on the contributions of cooperatives. The contributions of cooperatives to CoopCycle are relatively small (3% of the previous annual turnover). This funding is insufficient to cover all functional operations or to scale-up the initiative. This also limits CoopCycle’s ability to search and apply for new funding opportunities.
Another weakness of the initiative is its limited visibility when compared to large platforms such as UberEats and Deliveroo. Currently the platform work market is highly concentrated and dominated by a handful of large platforms. Large platforms have better access to capital and therefore can market their services better. While CoopCycle aims to increase the resources and improve the market position of small cooperatives relative to larger platforms, it remains challenging to compete with platforms that dominate the market.
Overall, the initiative is effective and has a positive impact on platform workers. CoopCycle has managed to create a fully-fledged alternative to the traditional bike delivery platforms, while ensuring higher salaries (on average 25% higher than minimum salary in France), better and safer working conditions as well as access to social protection. Moreover, CoopCycle has been successful in empowering platform workers and raising awareness around the working conditions in the platform economy.
- Awareness raising, campaigns, information provision, Organising and representing platforms, Organising and representing workers
- Business association, Platform
- platform cooperatives