The mobilisation of gig economy couriers in Italy
In October 2016, in Turin, northern Italy, cycle couriers working for the German food delivery company Foodora staged a series of public protests which quickly attracted considerable media attention and became known as the first case of workers’ mobilisation in the Italian ‘gig economy’. The protests sparked a lively debate in Italian public opinion about working conditions in the so-called ‘gig’ or ‘on-demand’ economy. However, the debate remains confused by the ambiguous meaning of these terms, often conflated with unrelated concepts such as that of the ‘sharing economy’ (Blanchard, 2015; Drahokoupil and Fabo, 2016); and by the as yet limited understanding of what these ‘new’ work organisation forms entail for the evolution of employment practices (Eurofound, 2015; Valenduc and Vendramin, 2016) and for the possibilities of workers’ collective organisation. Analysing the case of the Foodora riders’ mobilisation in Italy thus offers a timely opportunity to reflect on the current challenges facing the labour movement, in Italy and in Europe, in the brave new world of the ‘gig economy’.
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