SMart (société mutuelle pour artistes)

SMart is a cooperative production house for freelancers (which may include platform workers) and projects that have been awarded cultural grants.

It comprises of 100 000 members in nine EU countries. Membership is based on an annual fee. SMart serves as employer to its members providing administrative, social and legal protection. The employed members can decide to arrange the payment of invoices through SMart, which guarantees payment within seven days, and receive general support with their budget management. In this sense, they can choose to be paid directly for each completed project or they may decide to be paid in monthly instalments (based on their average annual earnings) in order to decrease the income uncertainty associated with self-employment. Furthermore, members have access to insurance benefits and can make use of consultations with their SMart advisor. Thus, originally conceived as an administrative intermediary that manages the employment relationship, SMart has evolved adding multiple roles such as functioning as a third-party payer and employer, a worker’s representative, a temporary work agency, a legal advisor, and a loan provider. 

In Belgium, SMart played an important part in safeguarding payment and insurance to self-employed food couriers by serving as their employer. After gathering information on the precarious situation of the couriers working for Deliveroo and Take Eat Easy, SMart negotiated an agreement with the two companies to standardise structures and provide enhanced protection for workers. As of May 2016, workers for Deliveroo and Take Eat Easy could work on a self-employed basis and directly invoice the platforms or become employed by SMart (this is a triangular employment contract similar to an agency contract and involves a worker, a legal employer (SMart) and an effective employer (Deliveroo) according to Belgian legislation). SMart employees were guaranteed the minimum wage, they received a performance bonus, tips and they were guaranteed minimum three-hour shifts, which were paid even if a technical problem prevented the worker from completing the shift. Furthermore, they received safety trainings, accident insurance and insurance against payment delays and bankruptcy of the client. The latter was achieved by means of a salary fund established by SMart and when Take Eat Easy went bankrupt in July 2016, the couriers employed by SMart received their final pay through this fund, while the remaining couriers were left unpaid. Because of the cooperation between SMart and the two companies, Deliveroo increased transparency around pay and working time, which contributed to further negotiations between workers and the platform. By October 2017, 90% of Deliveroo riders worked through SMart. However, by that time, Deliveroo terminated the agreement, changed its pay system and the algorithms applied for managing the work of courriers. As of October 2017, workers were paid on a per-delivery basis instead of a per hour basis. Deliveroo claimed that in this way, the couriers could earn more and that the implemented changes would provide them with greater flexibility. For Deliveroo it was desirable to make this change in order to rely on the De Croo tax relief which applied to officially-approved platforms, which came into force in 2016. In this way, Deliveroo could also avoid the prospect of being covered by a collective agreement negotiated by the Belgian Union of Transport Workers (Dutch: Belgische Transportbond, BTB; French: Union Belge du Transport, UBT) and the employee organisation of gastronomy and food trade (Horeca-Voeding-Alimentation, HORVAL), both of which are part of the General Labour Federation of Belgium (French: Fédération Générale du Travail de Belgique, FGTB; Dutch: Algemeen Belgisch Vakverbond, ABVV), as well as the national workers’ union (Centrale Nationale des Employés, CNE), which is affiliated to the Confederation of Christian Trade Unions (Dutch: Algemeen Christelijk Vakverbond, or ACV; French: Confédération des syndicats chrétiens, CSC). Although Deliveroo benefitted from the shift to self-employment, it also stirred resentment among couriers, who organised a strike in January 2018. For further information see ETUI. 

Starting from 2019, the initiative has been continuing its engagement for cooperativism in the platform economy, for example through the project “Platform Coop Brussels” financed by the Brussels region with the aim to make recommendations to create a sustainable ecosystem for cooperative platforms. 

Metadata

  • Initiative
  • Organising and representing workers
  • Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden
  • Other
  • Yes
  • no specific sector focus, transport
  • On-location platform-determined routine work
  • Deliveroo
  • platform cooperatives, representation, industrial relations, social dialogue
  • English
  • 2021
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