In which we talk to Cosmin about working as a delivery platform rider.
In today's episode we talk to Cosmin Popan about working as a delivery rider within the gig economy. The discussion starts from Cosmin's research work in three cities: Manchester, Cluj and Lyon. The perspective alternates between theoretical and conceptual observations about the ways in which this type of work affects worker consciousness and the field in general, and pragmatic observations from the field. We touch on topics such as the type of contracts under which the deliverers work, legislative initiatives at national and EU level and the hidden types of coercion that come with this kind of work. In particular, we discuss how the expansion of this model of work constrains not only our economic possibilities but also our ability to imagine better worlds.
- Cosmin Popan:
- twitter: @cosminpopan
- Cosmin's research project
- “Social implications of platform-based food delivery”
- Platform Struggles (zine, Ed. Pagini Libere)
- (I) Manchester: https://pagini-libere.ro/en/brosuri/manchester-platform-struggles-issue-1/
- (II) Cluj: https://pagini-libere.ro/en/brosuri/cluj-platform-struggles-issue-2/
- Delivering precarity (graphic story about the Cluj deliverers)
- Cosmin's academic publications
- The EU legislative initiative discussed in the episode
- Riders unite: a wave of struggles in the gig economy
- Art by Cristian Grecu
- Music used in the episode: Avoid Evrthn -- Altfel
NPC: [00:00:00.60] [intro track: “Altfel” by Avoid Evrthn]
robi: [00:00:12.40] Welcome to a new episode of Leneșx Radio. In today's episode we are going to talk about delivery work on platforms, the so-called gigwork or gig economy. To tell us about the subject, today we have Cosmin Popan, who is doing research on the subject and will tell us from his experience on the ground and from his theoretical understanding. During today's episode you will hear the following voices. So me, Robi. Lazy Comrade Adina.
adina: [00:00:44.11] Hi.
robi: [00:00:44.62] And Adi, whom you have heard before with other episodes, in particular the episode with Trifon and the episode about May 1 two years ago.
adi: [00:00:55.06] A long time ago, yes. Hello! I'm glad we can have this discussion, especially since I personally didn't know much about this occupation. Cosmin has both theoretical as well as practical knowledge, having been a delivery man himself for many years. So his perspective is, shall we say, one right from the field. And I think that for many people today's discussion might shed some light on some lesser-known aspects and lead to a greater awareness of what it means to be a delivery person. And what are its promises, on the one hand, but at the same time, the reality that is often not, let's say, the happiest.
robi: [00:01:39.85] And the discussion oscillates between field experience through the voices of different suppliers from the cities where Cosmin has been active, especially in Manchester, in Great Britain, and Cluj, in Romania. And Lyon in France was also added since we recorded the episode.
adi: [00:01:55.27] As well as Lyon, yes.
robi: [00:01:56.65] Yeah, and Lyon. And more general observations about this type of work -- who works as a delivery person, what are their motivations, and what is the more general impact of this type of work on the consciousness of workers and on the labor field more generally. It's a heavy episode, again, as usual.
adi: [00:02:16.60] It seems to me quite the opposite, a fast episode if we think about the bicycle.
robi: [00:02:21.19] I was also saying in the last episode, that I keep putting disclaimers that it's a heavy episode, a dense episode... It's like that's all we have. But that's life.
adi: [00:02:31.48] And this delivery job, for example in Cluj, as Cosmin also says at a certain point in the episode, if you catch an order in Zorilor which is on a hill, then you really have a lot of pushing in front of you. Probably with all the problems piling up in that back bag, it's hard to climb that hill.
robi: [00:02:53.74] In addition to our voices, you will also hear three clips from the interview made by Cosmin with three deliverers: Elena, Adrian and Liliana. Enjoy listening!
NPC: [00:03:08.22] [intro collage]
robi: [00:03:44.01] I don't know if you know each other very well. I don't know Cosmin. I am Robi.
cosmin: [00:03:52.35] Yes, yes. Let's start with the formalities.
robi: [00:03:55.65] Yes, yes.
cosmin: [00:03:56.82] Thank you very much for the invitation. Thanks, obviously, to Adrian. To be honest, I don't know about you guys. I discovered you through Adrian. Probably this thing would have worked differently if I had been around Romania in recent years. I've only been back here for half a year and I've been in the UK for the last 8 years and I'm a bit disconnected from certain Romanian social realities, so to speak. But little by little, and thanks to the gang of anarchists from Cluj, I am reconnecting to various important things that are happening in Cluj and in Romania.
cosmin: [00:04:37.65] I'm from the same decade, so to speak, with Adrian. We were high school classmates, we know each other from there, high school classmates. We both came to Cluj. In 2000-2004 I went to university, after which I was in Bucharest for about 10 years, before I went to Great Britain. And now I'm here for the research project we're going to talk about today. I am doing research here for 6 months and will continue until March. It is a multi-faceted research. I mean, I also did a similar thing in Manchester, and it would follow that after that I would be in France, in Lyon, just like that for nine months researching the same subject.
adi: [00:05:18.09] I thought it was a very good opportunity for Cosmin to tell us what he is doing and why.
cosmin: [00:05:23.64] We could take the longer version. I did a PhD in the UK in Lancaster, finished in 2018. And it focused on urban mobilities, post-car and bicycle cities, and some alternative futures for urban mobilities. And somehow that was a continuation of my interest in bicycles and alternative mobility, but somehow in another register obviously. Because what my doctoral research was was on a pretty optimistic vision of a future where we'd have fewer cars and more bicycles and walking and so on -- some cities for people, as they say. And somehow arriving at something quite the opposite of how I imagined it and how I understood it when I was writing that doctoral thesis. Okay, so I had a critique of how speed is understood as the ideal of urban mobilities. And somehow a continuation of that project.
cosmin: [00:06:36.06] On the other hand, on a personal level, it's also a recognition of a precariousness, I think, in which I found myself in recent years, after finishing my doctorate. And when I wanted to do deliveries I was still in my doctoral period and I had no money and I was thinking about how it would be if I supplemented my income. Which I didn't do right then. But soon somehow, out of a mix of curiosity about the phenomenon, me trying to find another research topic after finishing my doctorate, being in London at the time. And somehow out of necessity, probably to move a little, to exercise a little more and earn some money, because you can earn money from this job. And that's what we're going to talk about.
cosmin: [00:07:23.28] It was this mix that basically pushed me towards researching the working conditions of couriers. In the first instance on a bicycle, but obviously this also includes those who use cars, many of them. At least here, in Cluj, but pretty much everywhere, in all cities. And I don't know, on scooters, on motorcycles. Using public transport and so on. I have seen various such things. And somehow, in a broader context, this research is in this line of interest for a future of work that seems to depend more and more on how some platforms allocate jobs through an algorithm. Something that has been happening for probably 15-20 years. 15 years since Uber entered the American market and from there it somehow started with this platform work.
cosmin: [00:08:21.66] But it is found in various forms, not only related to urban mobility, whether for taxi driving or food delivery, but it is found in all kinds of jobs that today are mediated by platforms. Starting from walking dogs in parks ... More and more such jobs end up being mediated by platforms. And, somehow, on the one hand, the optimism towards such a future, where everything is a click away, and on the other hand, a precarity that is somehow perpetuated and accentuated with this kind of jobs. So there's some research interest there and that's what I'm doing.
cosmin: [00:09:10.83] Gig economy, that's what it's called, and mainly related to delivery, food. as a topic of interest is probably not more than 10 years old when the first companies appeared on the Western market. Deliveroo and Uber Eats. More recently, somehow in Romania, maybe 5-6 years ago, with Glovo, Foodpanda and the more local ones that appeared more recently. Local meaning either Romanian or from Eastern Europe. I mean Tazz and Bolt here.
cosmin: [00:09:37.53] My research is part of a more general academic interest, related to working conditions and a, so to speak, Marxist approach to work from the perspective of those who carry it out. What I wanted to do additionally is, on the one hand, to compare this phenomenon in three countries. Because these platforms are cross-border, efforts to resist them have taken on a transnational form in recent years. Similarly, the alternatives, such as cooperatives, which are also starting to appear, are also to some extent transnational, even if we do not have such a thing in Romania. Just as we don't have a wave of strikes that is somehow cross-border, just like what happened in recent years in Europe.
cosmin: [00:10:24.66] My work basically involves ethnography. Food being delivered. So I got hired as a Glovo delivery person. Here. And in the UK, the same, with platforms that exist there -- Deliveroo and Uber Eats. Interviews, formal and informal discussions with couriers. I tracked couriers at work -- a very important thing because my experience is obviously limited and from an interview you often cannot capture the materiality and corporeality of such work, which, as I will tell you , is quite demanding.
cosmin: [00:10:59.40] Besides that, some activities in collaboration with artistic designers to try to bring to the surface, for the widest possible audience, not just academics, a little about the realities of this work. Respectively, I work with illustrators who illustrate some of my stories and with web designers who help me put in the very near future, I hope, a platform that will tell some stories of these couriers from the two cities. For now. By means of these illustrations, on the one hand, but somehow also with the possibility to somehow follow as close as possible to the actual work, how a day in the life of a delivery man unfolds, respectively with GPS geographical information that will be on a site with audio fragments in which these couriers are in dialogue with me and reflect on the work they do.
cosmin: [00:11:57.84] A kind of storytelling where we show a little bit of the work behind, because that is very important for the general public. To understand what the back-end work is, because there are all these mythologies around flexibility and autonomy and good money that can be made by delivering, delivered by these platforms through all kinds of communication campaigns. And in general, a mainstream discourse that glorifies this kind of entrepreneurship, where everyone is an entrepreneur and everyone is their own boss. And that's what I'm trying to bring to the surface, yes indeed for an academic research, but an academic research that also has an impact in the community, as much as possible for a wider audience.
adina: [00:12:44.27] Can I ask you something that is super pragmatic? I was wondering how hard it is to get funding for this kind of research?
cosmin: [00:12:54.92] It's an area of interest, without a doubt. In the UK there are various research councils, obviously, that fund research in the social sciences, the humanities. There are funded research projects studying this phenomenon already. It is a visible academic interest, it is an interest on the part of national and European governments to produce legislation that improves working conditions or somehow classifies this work. Because at the moment there is a complete legislative vacuum regarding who these people are. So, interest is. And I was lucky enough to get three years of funding to do this.
robi: [00:13:41.96] I was thinking of going this way with the discussion from the general to more particular things, if everyone agrees. I was thinking, if you will, before we get into the particular case studies that you dealt with in the research that you did. I was thinking if you want to say some more general words about the niche that this work occupies, this type of gig economy. In the sense that it is relatively accessible, in the sense that people do not need any skills or material goods, other than a bicycle, for example, in the case of delivery services. On the one hand. And on the other hand, maybe this mirage of, I don't know, entrepreneurship. I know that's what you've discussed in your articles as well, about entrepreneurship versus a you-as-a-worker approach and, as you said, the ontological precariousness of this kind of work.
cosmin: [00:14:35.64] Yes, yes. I've done the groundwork, so to speak, up until now in Great Britain. We have already finished here, in Cluj, the actual data collection part. It's a relatively affordable niche in the UK. The status is somehow different from the one we find in Romania, but the reality is almost similar. What happens in Great Britain is that everyone is a Pfa or freelancer or self-employed, it depends on which word would be translated into Romanian. Respectively, those who work have a direct freelance contract with the platform. And that means they are not employees, basically. I am self-employed.
cosmin: [00:15:23.79] In Romania here we have a kind of self-employed bogus. I mean, these people are employed by some intermediaries, subcontracting companies, fleets -- they have all kinds of names by which they work or are recognized. They are also employees and in the relationship with Glovo they have an intermediary who on the one hand pays taxes on their behalf and takes a commission, but at the same time it does not work the way an employer should work with everything that means medical insurance, paid holidays. They pay minimum wage, but people work a lot more.
cosmin: [00:16:03.48] But what do I mean? That in one way and another, if the platform decides that it wants to close the activity, the account, it does so without the employee here, in Romania, being able to object in any way. And this probably happens because opening a Pfa or setting up a company involves bureaucracy in Romania. There are also such cases, but most, as I said, work through such intermediaries. And on the other hand, what the platforms are doing here, and they haven't necessarily done so in the UK, is that they're sort of preempting the moment when the European Union or national governments will try or actually succeed in demanding the reclassification of these workers. Reclassifying them as employees and not as freelancers. So they, through this trick, to some extent, avoids having such subcontractors who are legal entities, avoid this responsibility towards the employees.
robi: [00:17:07.83] What are these? Are they service contracts?
cosmin: [00:17:10.23] They are employee contracts. So you're employed by a company with a fleet of between three and 50 such couriers. It depends on how big these fleets are. Many times they are people who started as employees of a fleet and then made their own fleet. So there are quite a few in Cluj and other cities who do this. You are in a contract for an indefinite period, at the minimum on the economy, as a supplier. That's in the nomenclature, I get the impression, your status. As a deliveryman. And you have that minimum on the economy which is your salary, but the money you actually receive depends on the deliveries you make. So this salary from the contract you have and signed is a minimum for the economy, but in fact your salary comes from making deliveries and you are paid per delivery. And after that, the subcontractor company pays health and pension taxes on your behalf, at the minimum per economy. And here is a very interesting thing that these couriers want to spend as few hours as possible to pay as few taxes as possible, but they all actually work a lot more.
robi: [00:18:28.63] Robi here in the editing phase. I thought I'd insert a comment here, though, so that it's clearer what's going on with the contracts. So I asked Cosmin more specifically and I also asked some friends who work at various delivery companies, and it seems that the best practice is for the delivery people to sign a contract for one hour a day, so one eighth of the norm, with remuneration set by the minimum wage. So this means that they are basically employed as workers on labor contracts, but on one-eighth of the norm. And the rest of the money -- basically, the money for the delivery, as Cosmin also said -- is given somehow... Not sure how it is given. That there is no other signed contract apart from this one. So it could be a contract for, say, services or something. But there isn't. So only on the basis of this one-hour-a-day work contract do they have a contract with the company.
robi: [00:19:26.05] So that means several things. One in hand, that in fact, legally they must benefit from about an eighth of the number of vacation days. That would be 3 days off. Remunerated at the minimum wage. That's one on hand. Two, with the newer law of I don't know what year, delivery people have to pay the equivalent of a full time minimum wage tax. That's the new law. So even if it is a fraction of the time spent in the contract, he has to pay at least a full time with a minimum on the economy. And otherwise it seems that the rest of the money is somehow given illegally. As far as I can tell. And indeed, my friends who are still working keep saying, for example, that the companies, at least here in Timișoara, the intermediate companies still had legal problems because of the contract and still have to pay fines. But apparently they make enough profit that it's worth paying this fine. Yes, that's all I wanted to clarify a bit.
cosmin: [00:20:24.54] Getting to more peripheral areas of the city, which you don't know very well. It took a while to find the address.
courier1 - elena: [00:20:30.75] Oh, yes, because you see that often where GPS sends you is not the exact address. And it sends you to the halls like that. Or as it happened here at Mafcom, the GPS actually sent me to the other side. And this stuff confuses you because you're not getting paid while you're searching.
cosmin: [00:20:51.39] And on the other hand, customers don't understand.
courier1 - elena: [00:20:55.02] They have no understanding. They expect you to know everything. I mean, you work in delivery, but you can't be omniscient. I mean, you have no way of knowing all the streets in Cluj, all the numbers on the streets, you have no way.
cosmin: [00:21:11.01] Yes. And tell me this option to order anything and how you can mess up with money sometimes.
courier1 - elena: [00:21:17.52] Yes. So, as I mentioned earlier, for any orders, there are orders such as shipment or purchase. With shipment type orders, you take something and take it to someone else. But with purchase orders you have to buy. And if the customer makes a mistake from the first order and chooses the shipment type, you pay for that product, but not you... Even if you took money from the Glovo balance, you don't get it. As if the money is all yours. But you don't have them anymore, because you paid. And you suffer too. Because that money, in the worst case, you take it from yourself or you take it from the tips. And it can be large amounts, as I told you that I paid 50 lei.
cosmin: [00:22:03.63] So that was basically a rookie mistake, as it were. Because you didn't know the system.
courier1 - elena: [00:22:09.03] Nobody tells you these things. And you have to burn yourself, feel them on your skin.
cosmin: [00:22:14.04] In that sense, yes.
courier1 - elena: [00:22:16.23] Yes, because for 50 lei, I would add a bit more and add a day of new diesel. So that's how I calculate, in diesel days. I mean, when you're driving... Diesel has become more expensive. And you can't afford to make a mistake.
cosmin: [00:22:34.54] Nah, so it was a short day on Friday, after which came the weekend and tonight we put in another shift. It's been an hour and a half since I started work. It's obviously busier than during the day. How has it been so far and what have you been up to.
courier1 - elena: [00:22:49.21] At the moment, it was more relaxed. I only had houses, which is lucky. We didn't have to climb the stairs in the apartments. I found the address easily. I had long runs, meaning 10-12 minute runs. Usually the evening gave me shorter distances. I mean, for example, Sultan used to send me somewhere to the Clinics.
cosmin: [00:23:10.66] And implicitly better money.
courier1 - elena: [00:23:13.30] No. Less. That's the thing that if you have a longer run...
cosmin: [00:23:18.04] Ah, I understand. But you could make several orders at the same time, it would be better money.
courier1 - elena: [00:23:23.44] I'm interested in the bonus because the number of orders counts for the bonus. And that for me was the bonus. But it's okay, I'll work harder another day and it will pay off.
cosmin: [00:23:37.21] And now we have a McDonalds at Iulius Mall and there will probably be a bit of a wait. Are you afraid of it?
courier1 - elena: [00:23:43.21] Yes, you have no choice. That we reallocated one today and it would be preferable not to reallocate anything.
cosmin: [00:23:50.41] Have you reassigned one already today?
courier1 - elena: [00:23:53.38] Well, yes, I told you. I had 10 cartons of sour milk and more than likely there was a stairway to the apartment and even…
cosmin: [00:24:00.61] You would have broken your back.
courier1 - elena: [00:24:01.78] Exactly. No, it's really not preferable to carry so much.
cosmin: [00:24:05.23] So you have two reallocation possibilities left for today.
courier1 - elena: [00:24:10.41] Well, for a hundred orders, you can allocate about 4. About 4-5 maximum. That your rate increases later. Now it's people who don't care about the bonus. Yes, I care because it's a few extra pennies that you work for. I don't think I'll reach my target of 300 lei today. Yes, no problem, I'll make it up another day. I will work more.
cosmin: [00:24:42.25] You also had a trip to Auchan, after some rather voluminous shopping.
courier1 - elena: [00:24:47.20] Thursday, yes. We also had to carry water. If I was alone, I had to have a bag in my backpack and carry bags with both hands. That's the job. And now I hope it will continue to be ok.
cosmin: [00:24:59.80] And you also had a bit of a stomach ache. You don't eat very well.
courier1 - elena: [00:25:04.00] Yes, yes. Unfortunately, in this job you eat when you can, where you can. When it hits you, you don't really have a choice. And you eat food that is frozen, that you just throw in the oven and it's ready in 5 minutes. Unfortunately, time does not allow you. Nah, that's the price you have to pay if you want to make more money at Glovo. That you always have to move fast, you don't have time for anything else. Only to be at work.
adina: [00:25:38.77] I guess the system is pretty similar to how Uber works and all these platforms, right?
cosmin: [00:25:45.04] Yes, it's pretty much the same story, they're all through subcontracting companies.
adi: [00:25:51.25] Now, I know that it's the kind of activity that is not without its dangers, so to speak, for those who do it and those who do it. And then my question, now, listening to you, would be the following. In the UK, for example, in the event of an accident, we assume that a delivery person temporarily loses the ability to perform this service. What is the responsibility of the algorithm, the platform? Or who is the interlocutor? Is there any such liability to this supplier? Or does it not exist? Similarly, if you can give a comparison in Romania where a delivery person loses this capacity for various health reasons or due to an accident. What is happening?
cosmin: [00:26:32.85] Yes, Thank you, Adrian! We are heading towards the sore points of this job and this type of work. It's formal in the UK -- probably here as far as I know, not -- some health insurance that Uber or Deliveroo in the UK have, but they're paltry. I mean, there is pressure from civil society, from the public, for these platforms to start doing something for these people. And they're not just in a relationship of equality, but really it's a relationship of subordination that has been demonstrated countless times in court. There have been many such processes in which it has been demonstrated that, in fact, it is not a relationship between two legal entities, but one of subordination.
cosmin: [00:27:17.35] And then there was really pressure on these platforms to offer such insurance for accidents. But they are petty, they don't cover anything that they should cover, a few hundred euros -- pounds -- if you can get it if you have an accident like that. So I am by no means what I should be. In Romania, as far as I know, there are none, that is, Glovo has nothing and if someone buys his own health insurance, he does it in his own and personal name. The situation is the same, as I said, with vacations. Holidays are not paid. You take your holidays at your own risk and with your own money. And nah, somehow we discuss this ontological precariousness. You bring everything from home, basically.
adi: [00:28:05.26] You're on your own.
cosmin: [00:28:08.47] On my own. Your bike, your car, your gas, your repairs, the fines you pay out of your pocket. If the Local Police catches you for parking in the center, you pay from the salary you earn. I think they gave some masks for free now, they obliged since COVID. But everything else is paid for. You pay including the fact that you use the application as a user. There is a fee to use that app. The subcontractor takes a commission based on the number of hours -- if you are at 4 or 8 hours they take a commission between 50 and 100 lei per week, maybe more in some cases. It depends on how well you can orient yourself to find a subcontractor who doesn't bother you. And, basically, the contacting companies say that you should not have an accident. So it kind of warns you that it's not...
adina: [00:29:03.85] It made me think -- how you describe it works -- and how, I don't know, the book market works for example. In which the author, who actually does a lot of work, ends up receiving a ridiculous amount. I don't know 4% or how much. Anyway, under 10% of the volume. And the rest of the money goes to marketing, I don't know, bookstores, distribution networks, all kinds of other things. It's this logic in which the company that provides you with the infrastructure, whether we're talking here about the technological infrastructure, that is, that application... Okay, it doesn't even put the entire infrastructure to the test, that you have to come by bike from home.
adina: [00:29:49.72] But actually, I wanted to ask you something else. That this also means that there is no possibility of unionization, I imagine. Right? I mean, I don't think there is any way for people to join a union. Or is there some conceivable way in which an organization can be imagined so that more rights are demanded? Or something similar? Have you seen initiatives like this in other countries? I don't know, something we could equate to some kind of delivery strike or something like that.
cosmin: [00:30:26.77] Thank you, Adina, for the question. There's one thing I want to say before I answer the question about unionization. The infrastructure that you were talking about as well and the fact that from Uber onward, basically all these platforms that exist -- and AirBnB comes in here -- that operate without any kind of fixed capital. Apart from the data that they take, collect, refine, serve further to the algorithms, they have no asset, so to speak.
cosmin: [00:31:03.86] And what is important here is, basically, this infrastructure that exists and which belongs to the companies, and which represents this huge amount of data to which the couriers do not have access. Which data is collected without being remunerated in any way and which contributes to the improvement of an algorithm, to make the work more efficient and to increase the profits of these platforms and, implicitly, to value them on the stock exchanges in London and in New York, at billions of pounds, even though they don't make a profit. Deliveroo has been pumping capital into it for eight years now, just like Glovo and Bolt and probably Tazz too. A lot of money is being pumped into it.
cosmin: [00:31:53.30] They’re not for profit. But at the same time they operate in the futures market, where they basically sell some promises and have some ridiculously high market shares based on that data, which are not remunerated in any way. The discussion can be held in general with everything that means internet platforms, that we are talking about Google, that we are talking about Facebook, how this data... Shoshana Zuboff was talking about platform capitalism. That data that is basically not remunerated in any way, although it is still extracted and is ... Punctual and specific what can happen and this thing is anticipated in the delivery area is that the drones that at some point will deliver our food , will operate on the basis of this data which is currently being collected and is not remunerated as such.
cosmin: [00:32:43.61] And now, regarding unionization, to open this topic, I think it is useful to talk a little about who these people are, to understand what their possibilities are for unionization and, in general , of collective organization at the workplace. And here I think it is important to say, on the one hand, the trade union tradition in Romania, in what way is it different from Great Britain and in what way is it probably also different from France, where I will be. What's happening in the UK is that, and to some extent I think here too, the traditional unions have somehow been left behind when it comes to how this new form of work has emerged in recent years.
cosmin: [00:33:29.30] And because of an uncertain status of these people who are not considered employees -- they are at intermediary firms, but they are not actually there by all rights. All of this somehow contributes to being able to understand a little bit what their capacities to organize are. On the other hand, many who do such jobs reconsider them as transient. In Britain there are a lot of migrants who do such jobs. If they don't have, let's say, proper documents, their ability to organize is obviously also affected by the fact that they don't necessarily speak the language. In Romania, the situation of those who do such work is somehow different. We have fewer immigrants than there are in the UK doing the kind of work that actually happens in Western Europe, where the kind of work is done by migrants.
cosmin: [00:34:23.48] Here we have many men who do this job, many in Cluj, college graduates. People who lost their pre-pandemic jobs and had to resort to delivery. They worked in restaurants or who knows what other student jobs. But also after university. What's interesting is that these platforms there want to take us with the idea that they are flexible jobs, that you earn an extra penny in addition to your job. But they become jobs in themselves for most. The phenomenon is five years old in Romania, but despite all that, there are quite a few who come, who leave, and under these conditions the organization becomes quite complicated.
cosmin: [00:35:12.18] Now, on the other hand, what's interesting is that somehow this idea that people can be organized when they no longer share a factory or are no longer in the same workplace has been rejected , to see each other face to face every day and to be able to set up such activities, strikes, protests. However, in Great Britain and to some extent in Romania, there were protest actions organized on social networks. Actually described in one of the articles I submitted. How such networks are used to organize protests. Which took place. They also took place in Romania, they also took place in Cluj.
cosmin: [00:35:52.45] Only the problem is really, being precarious jobs, as they are, people who stay or don't see themselves staying in this job very long, not having a union. And so, the problem of making a union. Even if, let's say, there was a certain collective will. It's quite complicated, given that many of these companies subcontract, they don't have enough people to unionize. So there needs to be a limit of a minimum of 50 people, I have the impression. To be able to...
robi: [00:36:25.45] 15, I think, for...
cosmin: [00:36:26.95] 15. But they don't have many.
robi: [00:36:29.09] But to make a union they have to be in the same unit. In this case, I'm thinking employees on a single subcontractor or what? But if they are employment contracts. If there are no employment contracts, they cannot legally establish a union either. So yes, this is the legislation…
cosmin: [00:36:44.65] Exactly. It is the legislation that was changed during the Boc government. There was one in 2020. I wasn't here yet. Couriers were complaining that the payment per delivery had decreased. They stopped working, disconnected. There weren't very many. There were only, as far as I understood, 25 people out of a total of several hundred working for Glovo in Cluj. The accounts of those who went on strike were closed. And overall, it seems at least that a strike isn't in sight any time soon. At least in Cluj. Now, I think the context of the pandemic is also somehow important. Because people don't really have any other opportunities at the moment.
robi: [00:37:32.53] But here I would add a bit that maybe there is a regional difference here. In Cluj, you focused more on this sphere of people who work in food delivery. Me, here, in Timișoara, from the sample of people I interacted with... Here, in Timișoara, there are quite a few migrants. Many people who don't even know Romanian. So maybe there is a regional difference, between the fact that Timișoara is still an area where many migrants stay temporarily or permanently.
robi: [00:38:03.16] And in general, yes. The vast majority are men. And some women. As you said in the articles that intersectionality, diversity among suppliers is somehow overrepresented. And temporary work. Many young people who have probably just finished college, high school. Or, I have also seen elderly people. I know a person who lost his job and didn't quite find it, that he is close to retirement, for example. So yes, the vast majority relate to the type of work and temporary work. And this is certainly a barrier when we talk about solidarity. But not infinitely large, this barrier.
cosmin: [00:38:39.91] Yes, now I may have described a rather gloomy reality of this thing. I think that this kind of organizing at work happens and can happen even outside of traditional unions, that's where the discussion was. For example, in Great Britain there are unions that appeared much more recently, which somehow focus on this kind of work practiced by migrants in the gig economy. New forms of unionization have emerged. On the other hand, here in Cluj, where ok, since I've been here there hasn't been a strike, but this WhatsApp group that is used for couriers and where I also have access, is constantly full of complaints and swearing at Glovo.
cosmin: [00:39:31.87] I think it's the seed of scandal and I think people understand very well the situation they're in. I think that during this period it is quite difficult. But on the other hand, we see more and more people doing this kind of work. And look, for example, a smaller town, where couriers can be counted on the fingers of one hand. For example, there was a strike in Bistrita last year. So this thing happens and it can happen. Far be it from me to dismiss them. Equally important are actions of individual resistance that I observe in these workers who are not simply there alienated from work and are not somehow trying to thwart the algorithm in various ways. Giving rejections to orders, organizing to say avoid a certain area because there are police, for example, and giving fines. Ask at McDonald's if you go and wait an hour after an order, put pressure on Glovo to do something and sometimes something happens.
cosmin: [00:40:41.67] Now yes, it really is a problem that this kind of resistance is quite individualized and somehow reflects how these people perceive themselves as their own bosses and entrepreneurs. And somehow everyone is on their own skin. It is not excluded, on the other hand, that these strikes will repeat themselves and that these people will decide at some point that they don't even need a union to say ok, let's walk out for an hour today. That it's Friday night and everyone is ordering Glovo. And then to be able to basically block the platform for a Friday night or a weekend night. How it happened in Great Britain, in Manchester, and how I think they did when they did that strike with much fewer couriers, two years ago, here in Cluj.
cosmin: [00:41:31.98] So, yes, I think it is actually possible. That's how I somehow started the research in the idea that God, see what resistance there will be. And I was in Manchester when it all started and there was a strike there and there was a lot of literature written on this thing that actually, you know, we can organize in the workplace. But on the other hand, we also need to understand why it doesn't happen and when it doesn't, why? And I think that here is a trap that I don't want to fall into, to somehow question the fact that this job offers you a certain flexibility, it brings you some money that you don't have in many other similar jobs that you can have as a fresh graduate . That means you can earn good money.
cosmin: [00:42:17.43] But on the other hand, I think a lot of people don't immediately calculate all these externalities, so to speak. That is, you can have a salary if you work 12 hours a day, six days out of 7, as many work. You can have a 4-5000 salary per month. But from there you have to start subtracting all these expenses. Which many people don't do because they are young, because the money comes into their hands every week and it's money. And there's a certain financial security that you probably don't have in other jobs. While you don't have control over the work, you don't have control over the earnings you make from day to day.
cosmin: [00:43:01.68] This seems to me related to this ontological precariousness. You don't know exactly how much money you will make today. That it depends on where the algorithm sends you. If it sends you to the hills and you are a cyclist in Cluj, it is not very funny. If you are in the car and it sends you to the center the same. It's not very funny that you have nowhere to park or you get fined. If you get to McDonald's and wait an hour and a half after ordering, because everyone orders from McDonald's in the evening, you also have no control over how much money you make in a day. And as many times as I've talked to people I've watched make deliveries, they make a plan, but it falls apart as the day goes on. And then, invariably, these people say “I'll have to work harder tomorrow”. That's how my conversations with them end.
cosmin: [00:43:48.66] Just as my conversations with them end, that I hope to get home -- people who don't necessarily live in Cluj -- and I hope not to fall asleep at the wheel. As it happens to some and they entered through the parapets. That they worked 12 hours a day for three weeks every day. That it was good money, that Untold was happening. And the platforms, obviously, in situations like this raise the bonuses so that there are as many people as possible. And at the same time, those who are young and who have the impression that they can work and use themselves to the maximum end up falling asleep at the wheel. And these are recurring stories. It's not just episodes. I've had enough of people saying they fall asleep at the wheel. Same with cyclists who push their bike up the hill at Dawn and are exhausted and can't get up the next morning.
cosmin: [00:44:47.75] So then. Today we set off by car. We make deliveries. What can you tell us about today?
courier2 - adrian: [00:44:54.08] I plan to make 25 deliveries. I don't think I'll make them, to be honest. I will work somewhere around 10 hours, theoretically. If we include the breaks, it turns into about 11-12 hours. As the first difficulty of the Eroilor area, we have to find a parking lot. The first race I was assigned is one from Spartan, on the center. A little more difficult with finding parking. I am parking, but am I parking illegally? We try our luck again. Let's hope we don't spin very, very much. So we're breaking the law here.
cosmin: [00:45:35.11] So I spent half an hour waiting for an order at McDonald's. What happens?
courier2 - adrian: [00:45:41.44] I refused that order at McDonald's. I reassigned it after I arrived in Zorilor. I mean, according to my calculations, I was outside the risk zone. The next order I received was also from McDonald's. We went. I also did a bit of traffic. 20 minutes of traffic. I ate, of course. Fortunately, our schedule allowed us to eat. After which I waited and waited. After an hour or so I delivered an order 500 meters away, of course, from McDonald's. I said let's try to distance myself a little. The traffic did not allow us to go more than a kilometer from McDonald's. Now we have a double order, also from McDonald's. So let's stay for another fun hour. Over there by McDonald's. Let's socialize as we say. It's the socializing point, in front of McDonald's.
cosmin: [00:46:41.89] The colleagues sitting there in the Monastery at McDonald's were quite nervous. Not only that. They were even talking about a strike or organizing a protest.
courier2 - adrian: [00:46:52.96] It is definitely a pro argument. That is, when couriers sit and wait for an hour, an hour and a half, two hours and more for nothing. That is, for the last money in the world or even for free from other companies. It would be a movement to make within the framework of the couriers to organize themselves or to organize ourselves. That is, not to have among those who see the conversations or who have access to our discussions, not be people from the management level or in the immediate vicinity of Glovo or the subcontractors. Because it cannot be done otherwise. As soon as there is a person from among them, the matter will be dismantled. That is, the elements that generate waves will be isolated.
courier2 - adrian: [00:47:54.34] But it would be a beneficial thing for couriers. Boycott a restaurant, for example, if you give us long waiting times. We are no longer taking your orders. In itself, organizing protests is a beneficial thing by which we raise alarm signals. Look, this stuff doesn't work. They can be fixed, they can be improved. Until there are protests, there is no progress.
cosmin: [00:48:25.79] And 12 hours of work have just been done. Quite an exciting day. What are the conclusions?
courier2 - adrian: [00:48:34.37] I think that one of the fundamental points is how much money is collected in a working day. 223 lei. Divided by half going to the state or expenses, we have almost 110 lei collected. With the jokes of rigor and everything we want, it's a very appetizing job. A few leis are collected. Nothing out of the ordinary today. It's somewhat mediocre. Now, difficulties exist. There are good parts to the job. Otherwise we wouldn't do it. Long term, I wouldn't recommend it as a job. It's just one in which many will strain their health and nerves waiting for orders at McDonald's.
adi: [00:49:33.49] See here you say at one point that a good part of the speech with which this activity is sold -- that is, you will be flexible, you will make your own decisions, you will not have a boss -- it is often internalized by many people. Including, say, around, not only those who do the activity. And then you could get a good reply. You worked 12 hours because it was at the festival and there was a financial incentive there. But that was your decision. No no. No one really put a gun to your head to force you to do this. So it seems to me that there is an element of coercion that is no longer perceived as such, or is diluted, in this impersonal relationship with an algorithm. Which dictates the work and which has no effective accountability to those who use it.
adi: [00:50:26.63] Then, in a way, I think about how you respond to such a position. Yes, look, indeed, it can be hard, but no one is actually forcing you. You can go home when you want, because it's flexible work and you're your own boss. And the algorithm won't punish you for it. The boss won't whip you on the back. There is, I think, this dimension where coercion somehow disappears.
cosmin: [00:50:50.29] What you say is very interesting. That you notice that somehow. An internalization of coercion. these, so Foucaultian somehow. It is interesting how the management of this work is done. Not? That we have some platforms that give us some jobs. In principle, we can refuse them. We can't refuse a lot, because after that our rating drops or the time we reserved to work is blocked. So this kind of flexibility must also be understood in this context where at some point you will have to take a job that the platform shoves down your throat. And then what are the ways in which this coercion still works. And that's a very interesting thing, and it's kind of worth discussing, beyond this idea of flexibility that's strong.
cosmin: [00:51:43.70] I mean, I talked and saw parents who did this job precisely because it gave them a certain flexibility that other jobs don't give you. It's true. Now, when you end up working 12 hours a day to make some money that feels more or less the same, that flexibility is questionable. Likewise, the fact that there is no one to say you have to make this delivery by going this route. You choose it. Get out. Stay outdoors if you're on a bike. Or sit in the car and you can talk on the phone or listen to the music you want, at full volume. Also, it's very important to understand how this works to create this kind of impression that it's a job without a boss.
cosmin: [00:52:35.47] On the other hand, it's an algorithm that gives you some practical steps there. That's what an algorithm does, steps you have to go through to make a delivery. And the coercion there is very interesting. That it's in the form of a game, basically. You are a user. You get bonuses, you get kudos. Do that much and you get a bonus. So it's very interesting from that game perspective. How the questions are created and this kind of addiction that I think I was able to perceive in certain situations, where some couriers said to smoke a little more, do a little more. That it's always in the app and I've won so much money. I made another delivery and won this much more. Deliver five more orders today and you're closer to the bonus.
cosmin: [00:53:24.97] This is all very interesting, somehow. To discuss where these coercions are, where they appear and how they are hidden. And then you are not on an equal footing with the one who provides the work, but in fact you are in a relationship of subordination. It disappears like that, at the discourse level. But if you start to see how the job works, you realize that actually the subordination relationship is there, masked by all these games and the way you are presented as being in a flexible job, which you are not. That you're your own boss when you're not.
adi: [00:54:02.05] That you are free.
cosmin: [00:54:02.68] That you are free, yes. And I find this interesting to say.
adina: [00:54:07.54] I was thinking. By the way, why do you say now that in fact this whole story with the flexibility of work and the gig economy is a kind of adaptation of capitalism to contemporary society, to technological developments. But also a way to find some strategies to answer or mitigate part of the Marxist criticisms. That if we think about how it would apply, basically the hierarchy between the working classes is preserved and reproduced through gig work. But now the means of production are often replaced or can be seen as this part of the infrastructure. And then there is a strong hierarchy between, let's say, white collar workers -- who either do the software and IT part and develop and maintain the IT platforms through which the courier services work. Whether you have those who do the marketing parts or other things. And who, as a rule, I suspect no, have better-paid, simpler, more stable jobs.
adina: [00:55:25.66] And after that, in the end, at the end of the pyramid you have all the courier, which is actually the most precarious. But what I find interesting, as you say very well, that in fact I think the stake would be to study the seductive mechanisms, so to speak, through which this capitalism manages to attract the workers and make them feel less alienated, for example. Less dehumanized. To make them feel more autonomous, more in control of the work they do. And somehow, yes. I find that quite fascinating. I thought you were also saying that it's important not to deny that there is indeed some flexibility in these jobs that can be very attractive.
adina: [00:56:17.50] That reminded me a bit of this theater play -- I think it was called “Universal Delivery Man”, or “Bucharest Delivery Man” -- written by David Schwartz. Which is based on interviews and field documentation with several deliverymen, couriers who transport food. And what would you show this narrative arc through which many of the couriers who engage in such a job go through. You have in the beginning, you have this thing of super excitement and super delight that wow, look, I've managed to find a job that gives me autonomy and freedom and I can kind of be my own boss.
adina: [00:56:56.53] And after that, little by little, you realize that you are actually reaching a form of exploitation and self-exploitation. And that there are a lot of invisible costs or that are invisible at the beginning. Like the fact that, I don't know, you don't have certain insurances, you don't have a pension. You don't have in the event of an accident -- especially if there's a pretty nasty accident that affects your wholeness and physical health -- the consequences are pretty nasty. And I think it actually takes you a while to be able to calculate the true costs.
adina: [00:57:36.97] And this seems clear to me that it's not just a matter of this kind of gig work, but a larger logic of work flexibility. Because if you look ... What is familiar to me, at least. It seems somewhat similar to me in this artistic-cultural area, so to speak, where people are no longer employed, but work a lot on the basis of copyright contracts. Which also means that you don't actually pay your pension either, that you only have taxes and fees like that. And you're engaged in a form of work that often really gives you flexibility and independence. But at the same time, yes, at some point you realize that it's actually very unsustainable.
adina: [00:58:26.74] On the other hand, I think, companies usually benefit from this, because they have a significant reduction in the taxes they have to pay. And responsibility towards employees. And all the burden is shifted to you as a worker, under this illusion that you are some kind of small boss. But in fact you are a small boss, you are just a worker in this new economic-social class, called something like the new precariat. This is actually the new conceptualization of the transformations of capitalism, in today's society.
cosmin: [00:59:10.70] Techno-precariat, as someone called it. I think the things you said here, Adina, are very important, in relation to this logic of work flexibility. Which obviously goes beyond the economic and which must be put in the context of neoliberalism and what is happening in Western Europe. I mean here, first and foremost from the 80s onwards. Work flexibility, on the one hand. But the context is important, in the last ten years. Because we're also talking about this widespread accessibility of technology and the new precariousness compared to what [Guy] Standing was describing. Hhe was talking about the new precarious class.
cosmin: [01:00:00.29] I think that this techno-precariat has somehow become much more mainstream, precisely because access to the Internet, mobile, access to technologies, has accelerated in the last decade. In the last two decades, maybe. And that makes this whole phenomenon quite interesting on another scale. We could also have discussions about the role of migration in Europe, at least to understand how this precarity is getting stronger. And I also think that what you say is interesting to talk about from a feminist perspective, to implement this Marxist critique. Because at the end of the day, it's about work and time. And how work is understood only in its productive form. The way people who do this kind of work are paid for the time they spend picking something up and delivering that something to a destination is completely reductive and doesn't take into account the reproductive work that is expected after orders.
cosmin: [01:01:09.29] To receive an order, for example, in Great Britain you could stay for hours. Because there were so many couriers that you just had to wait for an order and obviously you didn't get paid to wait. You don't get paid if you stay at McDonalds for half an hour for your order to be prepared, you don't get paid if you go to the restaurant. You are not paid for the way to the restaurant. All this work and how it is understood as only productive work, so a reductive understanding of what work is, is problematic. And then I think a feminist perspective would be interesting here, and it's helpful to understand what the work behind this unpaid thing is actually like. The work including collecting data that these platforms collect, and which is not remunerated in any way. The work you have to put in afterwards to pay for all this stuff that no one else pays you. So all the equipment you grind, you repair, you buy.
adi: [01:02:12.89] I'm thinking now, listening to the discussion between you, how over time it went from a brutal and direct exploitation, let's say the capitalism of the 19th century. When it was quite obvious how things were and who was exploiting whom. Somehow it has moved towards an opacification of exploitation. Making it as diffuse as possible. But at the same time, if you think about it, its weight, its impact is comparable. That is, practically the principle does not change as such. It is only our ability to imagine it, to see it, to extract it and to face it that changes.
adi: [01:02:52.67] And it seems to me that technology plays a very important role in this matter. This conjunction of our consciousness -- both individual and collective -- and technology. And the paradox -- I don't know if it's necessarily a paradox -- that when there is this techno-optimism of the smart city or the smart society, a very technological society, very connected all the time, including in work, very efficient. Part of how this company is sold to us is transparency. Just through technology. And what seems to me to be very clear from what you tell and from what we have discussed here is precisely the opposite phenomenon.
adi: [01:03:33.80] That is, a deep obscuration, which is no longer only in the field of the visible, but also a mystification at the level of consciousness, of these things. Precisely because they are somewhat normalized and at the same time the most perverse thing happens, somehow a kind of inversion at the same time. That is, white becomes black, right becomes left. It seems to me an acceleration, precisely of alienation and all these forms. And I can't help but think if there are still alternatives to this thing, to these platforms, to this kind of work. Which use technology, but which somehow work as alternatives. And I don't know if you know or have thought about such a thing.
cosmin: [01:04:15.84] Yes, I mentioned earlier about cooperatives that also exist in the UK and in France that have developed their own software. And which is open access and which is used by various such cooperatives in many cities, in France, in Great Britain, in Germany. But there is an obvious scalability problem. When you have such initiatives, you obviously need a certain amount of capital to be able to compete with these established platforms that operate in the capitalist logic. On the other hand, there are some examples of initiatives in various cities, where municipalities have decided to develop an alternative to Uber, for example. And then, likewise, it is a counterweight to this platform capitalism.
adi: [01:05:12.32] Also with open access?
cosmin: [01:05:13.85] I know in Scandinavia there is an alternative to Uber. Yes, I think it's open access there. And, in any case, much more transparent the decision-making process, and somehow also the reverse of how these platforms are. I don't have many details, but I know that there are also such initiatives. Not necessarily in the courier area. There is legislation at the European level that is going to become a directive, as far as I understand, to ask these platforms to be transparent, to be held accountable, to reclassify these workers as employees and not as self-employed. The problem is how they will be applied. So right now, because these platforms have the capital behind them, they're often one step ahead of the legislation, basically, many times. And corporations making legislation really happens in the UK. Deliveroo have made their lobbying firm next to the Conservative Party.
cosmin: [01:06:20.36] Yes, so there is political will here and there. But I think that, on the other hand, this mirage that you talk about, Adrian, of technological optimism and smart cities, is often the one that wins. And just because it is a new technology and promises a technological utopia, it ends up being embraced without a critical discourse, without a critical view of the other side of the coin. Because really, these platforms do a phenomenal thing, somehow. And used in a different way and thought of in a more corporate way, they can indeed provide access to some jobs that seem to be more dignified than they are at the moment, to sections of the population that would otherwise not have access to jobs. I am referring here primarily to migrants, for example, who in these countries where they are the majority in these jobs, are a big oxygen bubble for them, who do not speak the language. And that's why it's also interesting how the regulation of these platforms is understood by various national governments.
adi: [01:07:36.02] That can be a double-edged sword, especially for people who would say that they don't have a very good situation in terms of documents.
cosmin: [01:07:45.38] Exactly.
adi: [01:07:45.89] And then I think this can be a double-edged sword just for these people.
cosmin: [01:07:49.94] That's exactly what needs to be understood, that simply regulating and bringing these workers into legality can be a problem. In the conditions in which they would not necessarily have the necessary documents to stay in the countries through which they stay. At the same time, yes, they are also in exploitative situations, because they rent such accounts many times, so that they can work.
adi: [01:08:14.78] Aha. Identities, basically.
cosmin: [01:08:16.64] Mhm. Rent identities on the platform. That happens.
adi: [01:08:19.95] Interesting. In Britain you say you encountered the phenomenon?
cosmin: [01:08:24.35] In Great Britain, in France. And here in Cluj I saw a somewhat similar situation, quite unclear, with all kinds of intermediaries upon intermediaries helping the 2-3 migrants I spoke with in situations like this. And it doesn't seem to be as visible a phenomenon as in the UK or perhaps France, where there have been press articles about such networks subletting accounts. But they exist. And that's why any kind of effort to help those who are in situations like that should not be limited to discussing whether we should regulate or not. But somehow look contextually, in the context in which such situations arise.
robi: [01:09:10.96] Jumping back to this co-op idea. In a way, it's surprising that there aren't more cooperative efforts like this. That, after all, at least in food delivery, for example, where the barriers are quite small. In the sense that you only need a bicycle. Maybe it's different with Uber, because you need a car of I don't know what parameters to be able to be employed. But for these you simply have to have a cooperative. Right? Which does the same thing that this app does, basically. Not? But I think this idea that people don't identify with it, they think of the job as a temporary job. And no, in order to build a cooperative, especially at the beginning, a lot of work is needed. And probably no one is really willing to invest that time and energy.
cosmin: [01:09:54.37] Sure.
robi: [01:09:55.21] I also wanted to give an example, that part of sex work still falls into this category of precarious work, which is mediated through digital platforms. Right? They had an episode on The Season of the Bitch podcast, about a sex work cooperative platform. So it's a digital platform and it’s worker-owned. Very interesting initiative and I don't see why they are not scalable in principle. All these initiatives.
cosmin: [01:10:20.38] I think we will start to see more and more. Because, as you say, it takes a certain amount of time for people to start thinking that way. To probably go through the experience of platform capitalism before reaching a platform cooperativism. I think it's a route maybe most of the time. And the initiatives that exist at the moment in front of cooperatives, somehow, are also started by those who have already gone through the experience of Deliveroo or Uber.
cosmin: [01:10:49.18] On the other hand, the discussion about scalability I think is still essential here. Because these platforms that are coming into the market at the moment, both here and in the UK, they come in with this financial capital that allows them to do some pricing and put some infrastructure in place, which goes beyond just having an algorithm and being able to to design an algorithm that does for you what the Deliveroo algorithm does for you. And because, as I was saying, a lot of these platforms benefit from this influx of capital from all kinds of venture capitalists -- including Amazon putting money into things like that -- then you realize that they can enter a market and to charge some prices below what anyone else who does not come with this capital could do. And to become a monopoly relatively easily. And this is happening in Romania. This also happened in the UK. When these services entered the market, they had some very good prices. And after a few years they already said no, that actually the real price is this.
robi: [01:12:03.07] Tactics like these attempt to bankrupt the competition. Right?
cosmin: [01:12:06.03] Yes, yes. That's what they do. And probably ... Yes. The discussion of scalability somehow has to be held within these parameters where the investment funds are throwing the money they are throwing. Then a cooperative alternative has some pretty clear limits in being able to offer a counterweight to what these platforms offer.
adina: [01:12:32.38] Earlier you were talking about productivity. And I was thinking that in addition to the fact that this culture of gig work, in addition to reinforcing this cult of productivity, in a way it seems to me to be very ableist and very ageist in a way. And that it takes advantage of the insecurity that our generations have about the future. We live with this perspective of the end of the world, with the idea that we're not going to get a pension anyway, that the world could end at any time because the climate apocalypse is going to come upon us. And that seems to me to give such a feeling of having to live in the present. Which on the one hand can be emancipatory and liberating. In the idea that ok, maybe we no longer accept so easily to stay in very rigid and very authoritarian and very exploitative jobs and hierarchies in a traditional or more easily visible sense.
adina: [01:13:37.51] But, on the other hand, I can't help wondering where this social trend is heading. Because without social networks and in the current context, where social networks are more and more eroded and we have more and more individualism and often quite a fierce competition for survival. I wonder what we might expect in the not-so-distant future, when our bodies won't be doing that kind of work anymore. And ok, if we look at gig work only as transitory work, then maybe that's not such a problem. But my feeling is that many of us end up doing this in the long run. And this tendency to make work more flexible is already becoming, it seems to me, a trend that tends to generalize.
adina: [01:14:41.61] Also, I think it's quite difficult once you get used to this impression of autonomy over how you manage your own time... It's quite difficult to be able to go back to some more hierarchical and stable structures, where you have an annoying boss who tells you what to do and how to do it, and who behaves how he behaves. Plus, in addition to all these things, we don't really have models or examples of any other kind of social net, beyond traditional pensions or other similar forms of institutional help for workers who can no longer work and who have lived in such a flexible market, without preparing in advance an alternative or another type of social net. My concern is what we could do in this direction, to make the outlook for the future less gloomy. Or how could we prepare by thinking that yes, ok, at some point we won't be able to work anymore, and no, what are we going to do?
adi: [01:15:51.30] Tough questions.
cosmin: [01:15:52.54] It's a hard question to answer, really. Personally -- and I'll probably be able to do this as I go forward with this research -- I'm going to go back to all these people that I've talked to over the course of three years, see what their career path is , from the moment I met them until I finished my project. Because, as I suggested, most people don't see themselves doing this job for more than a year, two years. And at the same time as the people in Manchester that I'm talking to, a lot of them are still caught up in this mixer. Although a year ago they said they were doing a maximum of one more year.
adina: [01:16:34.32] It seems like this kind of addictive job that you say “I'm not doing anymore tomorrow, I'm done, I'm done.” And you can easily remain in this 'trap' . I don't know to what extent it is a trap compared to another stable job. But you can quite easily get stuck here for a longer period as well. How far can you take it?
cosmin: [01:16:54.69] Yes. Now, as well, I think there's still this whole mythology that I still think is strong, that these are flexible jobs and we're autonomous in these jobs. And I think it will take some time for their size to surface properly. And that's what I hope to do somehow with my research. And that's why I want to have some things that I present to a wider audience. Who somehow understands what the back work is and what are the limits of this idea of flexibility and autonomy that come with them. Still, a lot of people I talk to don't have the faintest idea what this job means.
cosmin: [01:17:41.88] I'm talking about acquaintances, about people I meet in Cluj and I think that until people become aware of this kind of problems that work has. And it's probably still too early for that, given that these platforms have only been around for a few years. I think that until this is realized, there won't really be some more real reporting of those who do the work, versus what this work is. I was also surprised in Manchester, but I think here even more, by the optimism shown by those who were doing this work. A lot of them wanted to talk to me because they felt they could tell others about how good money you can make in these jobs. And I think that until some time passes, I think that these things will continue to be understood differently than they are.
adina: [01:18:35.73] But have you also met people who keep this enthusiasm even after, I don't know, a year, two or more of courier time? Or from your observations you would say that they are rather people at the beginning of the road, so to speak.
cosmin: [01:18:50.76] Indeed, those who are at the beginning of the journey are more like that. But I have seen, on the other hand, many who say they have been doing these jobs for two, three years and who have this kind of speech. And what I was talking about earlier about internalizing this thing and this entrepreneurial spirit and being in your own skin, internalized and kind of assumed by a lot of people. And until I went with them to watch them one day when they're making deliveries and see how all this talk is taken apart, you don't really notice that they're contradicting themselves in what they're saying about these jobs. That they are really very good and that good money is being made. The moment you start seeing them at work. And I think it's also a strategy in the end by which we justify ourselves...
adina: [01:19:37.90] Definitely. Yes.
cosmin: [01:19:39.31] ... this kind of work we do. Let's somehow make sense of it. And I think it probably takes a while. That's how I imagine it. On the other hand, we see that the socio-economic context in which we find ourselves is not very rosy. I mean, another crisis is coming, we still have inflation. I don't know exactly.
adina: [01:20:01.69] You don't really have a good alternative.
cosmin: [01:20:03.76] Yes. Just. Just. And at the same time, more and more people end up doing these jobs.
adina: [01:20:09.85] About when did this gig economy thing start to catch on?
cosmin: [01:20:15.16] This is about deliveries... As I was saying, since 2013 the UK has had its first such platform, Deliveroo. But the pandemic I could say put her on steroids. This platform work, apart from deliveries, is about 10 years old. Ever since Uber hit the market. And somehow it was a convergence of several things. Once, no, this idea of work flexibility and people who no longer want an office job from 9 to 5. A context of globalization. A migration that is happening and we see it and there are people who do these jobs and they are mainly migrants. The technology that now allows these kinds of jobs to be brokered, and all you need is access to a mobile phone. This has been happening practically for 15 years. And the ubiquity of mobile internet.
cosmin: [01:21:07.21] But it's interesting, on the other hand, what you ask. That the impression is that gig work started practically now since the internet came upon us. And likewise, this flexible job is a recent thing. And it's not necessarily like that. I mean, we had ... At least in Western Europe, we have this full-time job and with strict social networks, since the Second World War. That is, it is not a recent creation. And it is, on the other hand, rather a creation of the Western world. Because jobs, as we imagine them crumbling before our eyes, are a recent creation, somehow. And of the Western world. But it is interesting that, for example, this gig work also existed at the end of the 19th century, even. In ports. And even Panait Istrati writes about these jobs as not being mediated by technology.
adina: [01:22:08.98] Porters or what?
cosmin: [01:22:10.33] Porters. Yes.
adi: [01:22:11.47] It was also the placement office, right? I thought of that short story of his with the placement office, how they were waiting for the orders, so to speak.
cosmin: [01:22:19.54] Exactly.
adina: [01:22:20.35] Yes, that's right. It's interesting to see this continuity somehow. That it is not a strictly modern phenomenon, but rather some transformations, which have certainly been facilitated by technology and other developments. But, in fact, it is a phenomenon that has its roots further back.
cosmin: [01:22:39.46] And it is at the same time a practical regression. I mean, I regressed from this steady job, to a complete thing... A time-traveling, sort of thing. That was happening right now.
adina: [01:22:54.43] So he thought it was a setback? Is that how you see it?
cosmin: [01:22:56.86] Well, from the point of view of the social network that a job should give you, it's clearly a setback. If we compare with the welfare state we had in Western Europe, after the Second World War.
adina: [01:23:09.31] Yes. It seems to me that this Darwinist logic is practically being reinforced, as I say. Social Darwinism. In which it's kind of survival of the fittest.
cosmin: [01:23:22.64] Well, it's entrepreneurial logic taken to the level of society.
adina: [01:23:26.20] Yes.
robi: [01:23:27.79] Yes. Perhaps it is worth saying here that this type of jobs, which are very precarious, have an effect on society in general, on the labor market in general. I mean, it's not like they just have some sort of local effect. In the sense that no, people are satisfied with this kind of temporary mu and do not care about social benefits. But you have such pressure on all the other jobs. An example of this type of pressure, for example. When it comes to transport, taxi I know that there is a big difference -- at least here in Timișoara, where I am -- between Uber and Taxi. In the sense that Uber is very like that... They are generally young men, middle-class like that, with ok cars. The service is very good. It smells nice inside. You have a phone charger there close at hand or a tablet in the seat. Stuff like that. I mean... Versus Classic Taxi, classic taxi companies. Which here, at least locally, is quite ok, as is the service.
robi: [01:24:23.74] And it's a good x-ray of society. That is, you see among people who are retired or close to retirement. Young people. Cars that almost fall apart and cars that are really good. That is, it is a good representation of society. It is not a selection of some categories. And there is such pressure. Because if you're just looking at work, you sure like to smell nice and have the charger always close at hand. But if you look beyond your local interaction, the effect is very harmful. It thus puts pressure on all other services and, in general, on the labor market. Let all things go in the same direction, in this sense. For people to accept poorer working conditions in general. The effect is not limited to the people working in these sectors.
adi: [01:25:08.41] I think, now listening to you, that it would be interesting to somehow define what precariat means. Because it also means, as you say, less resources, it also means more hours of work, it also means all these things. But for me, the precariousness also depends on this dimension, let me say, of mystification, of consciousness. Because this, in a way, you also touch, that, for example, we become completely sensitized in front of speeches that deny workers' rights. I don't recognize that there is such a thing anymore. Or that society itself would have any responsibility towards working people. And my impression is that here is the poisoned apple. One of the poisoned apples. This slow diffusion of this neoliberal ideology which, in fact, in Romania is very well seen every time there is a strike or a collective movement of protest, of demands on the part of the workers.
adi: [01:26:08.23] As a rule, if you notice carefully -- and Adina, I think she wrote a very nice article about it -- the reaction not only of politicians or of those, let's say directly interested in suppressing these voices, is a negative or threatening one. But the reaction of people as such is often, if not of rejection, of misunderstanding. What do they need? And I think that also comes from this, I say, mentality that insinuates itself little by little, of precarity. Entrepreneurial spirit, absolute responsibility is the individual's flexibility. All these things that actually hide the fact that things are not quite like that, for very large categories of people. I think this is the poisoned apple many times. And the fact that many times at the level of society we no longer have the tools to even think that there are some rights. Or that collective and individual claims are pertinent and must exist. Or that acts of resistance, often, and perhaps even of retaliation, are justified and must be supported because it is a common interest. But it seems to me that there is also a small poisoned apple here. Maybe I'm putting words in your mouth, but what you said earlier, Robin, made me think of that.
robi: [01:27:24.06] Mhm.
cosmin: [01:27:25.51] This kind of precariousness, as Adrian understands it, which is very important somehow to mention and discuss. Somehow this whole social network, the whole society somehow, which enters into this game of competitiveness and individualism. And that's why I think that any attempt to improve the working conditions of those who do this kind of work, must be put in a wider context. In which, at least in this area of deliveries, it is not only the delivery person who is in a precarious situation. There are also those who work in restaurants and who, since these jobs appeared, are basically paid the same money for much more work that they have to do. And I think that this solidarity, beyond the area of those who do the actual work, solidarity with the rest of society, somehow. And with those of us who use these kinds of services and don't ask ourselves the questions we should be asking. I think it needs to be understood a bit and this kind of solidarity needs to be strengthened. Which at the moment are understood as competitions. Everyone is on their own skin somehow, and...
adi: [01:28:39.91] It's a market player.
cosmin: [01:28:41.86] Yes, yes. A market player. That's exactly what I tried to do at one point with the couriers I worked with in Manchester, let's organize a workshop -- which, because of the pandemic, we couldn't do face to face -- somehow we initiated a game , in which we said let's play different roles. Where you can propose solutions to various problems you have, from the perspective of a local authority or a government authority. Or from a restaurant perspective. Or a restaurant employee. From the perspective of the person doing the programming for this application.
cosmin: [01:29:24.89] Because in the discussions I had with each of these people, most of the time, they saw themselves as the only ones responsible for what happens to them. They internalized this neoliberal discourse very well. And that's what I kind of tried to do in that exercise. Let's play those roles. What if. And I think that's what these workers have to understand to do, on the one hand, and likewise, restaurant employees. To understand what these bridges are, that really exist. It's just that somehow they are obfuscated. And they don't appear as they really are. For example, strikes that happened in the UK or other countries in Europe, somehow they went along the food chain, so to speak. The solidarity of those who made deliveries with those who were in the restaurant at McDonald's.
adi: [01:30:16.22] Did everyone stop working? I mean, if the delivery guys went out of business, did the servers at McDonald's go out, too?
cosmin: [01:30:21.44] Exactly. Because somehow it was understood that solidarity must be carried out in this way. And my approach in research is also to understand a little how consumption habits, food habits change. And we had an online survey that we ran alongside the actual research. In which I asked the people of Cluj -- I still don't have the results of this online survey -- on the one hand, how their eating habits are changing and, on the other hand, how they understand the working conditions of these people who make deliveries. Likewise, in the idea that this solidarity must be extended, if we want to be able to improve working conditions in any way.
cosmin: [01:31:04.31] Because, as you all rightly say, it affects almost all of us. It is not only a precariousness of those who do this kind of work. It is a generalized one. And if we don't put it in this context, then we won't even be able to address it like that. Individually and in the spirit of competition, as we see it happen many times. Respectively, “what about these women who make deliveries”, as I have often heard replies. “What are you looking for when making deliveries?”, “These immigrants come and take our jobs” and make deliveries, and so on. It is a problem that this solidarity is not understood as it should be, between various players in this job. And after that with those who are the same along this chain.
adi: [01:31:50.39] Listening to you, I was thinking that exactly this thought is clearing up for me. That precariousness concerns us all, not just one category. And it also affects us in this sense, which I tried to define -- precarity that also comes with, I say, material costs. But I think that one of the costs is the collective impoverishment, so to speak, of the possibilities to articulate revolt, resistance and solidarity. Effectively it is as if we are blindfolded. Not because we don't have the freedom to say what we want, but simply because we no longer know how to articulate such things. They seem exotic to us. Exactly what you're talking about, it might seem to a lot of people an absolutely bizarre thing that you said earlier.
cosmin: [01:32:36.04] Good. So today I had a delivery shift by car. It's a quarter past nine and we start work right away. So what are your plans for today?
courier3 - liliana: [01:32:48.61] Today I want to work between 9 o'clock and about 2 o'clock, and then take a break between 2 and 5 half past. Because in the interval the city is very, very crowded and there is no point. I use more fuel than if I worked other hours. And I don't win either. I only get to do about one order per hour. That means I hardly win at all. And then I will work after that from 5:30 to about 10-11. I haven't decided yet. If I manage to earn 300 or as close to 300 lei by 10 o'clock, I stop. If not, I will continue until 11 o'clock.
cosmin: [01:33:31.96] I understand. And at the same time you have a bunch of extra jobs outside of deliveries today. You have two children to pick up from daycare. And you have a father-in-law to take care of as well. Tell me a little about how the day is divided outside of this actual work. curier3 - liliana: [01:33:50.02] At a quarter to one I have to pick up the children from kindergarten, because it's time to take the children out of the afternoon to kindergarten. And after that I drive them with me for about an hour. Until I have to go... I might have to go get my father-in-law, pick him up from the hospital. And take him to meet my husband. Because that would have been the husband's assignment, but not today. I don't think he will, unless he can fix his car problem. Anyway, and if I didn't have to do that, I should have taken the kids. So to keep them with me for about an hour's drive and then take them, hand them over to my husband to take them home.
courier3 - liliana: [01:34:41.16] I took the children from kindergarten half an hour ago, almost an hour. I stopped my orders for a bit, for a short period. So that I can start walking, so that I don't get any other orders in the meantime. And now he is with the children in the car. I have a new order coming in now. I am with the children in the car and I am waiting to meet my husband, to hand over the children to him. And I will enter the meal break, as it were.
cosmin: [01:35:10.02] Because you are also hungry and thirsty.
courier3 - liliana: [01:35:11.79] I'm also hungry and thirsty. I didn't get to eat anything today. To drink water like this, from time to time, a mouthful at a time. And all kinds of misadventures with the children. They crossed the street without waiting for me. He ran her down the street like that. A day in the life of a mom. Something like that. And no, I got to make a few orders. Not quite a lot. Not as many as I would have expected. And I waited after two orders. At this time I should have made about 100 lei. About 130-140 I had to do. Today was a worse day and I probably had less orders. And I also had breaks when I had to pick up the kids.
cosmin: [01:36:03.86] So in the end you stopped at 11. You were tempted to do until 12 to make the norm of 300. How was tonight? Pretty slow and…
courier3 - liliana: [01:36:12.26] Yes, quite slow. Orders came in heavy, heavy between 7 and half past 9, between 10. Waiting periods between 10-15 minutes. At each restaurant where we stopped, we stayed about five minutes, ten minutes after ordering. Which doesn't usually happen. I don't know what happened tonight. And I only managed to make 253 lei. So I didn't reach my target of 300. But I don't necessarily want to get there either. The idea is not to work too much so that I am exhausted. Now at 11 I stop and slowly go home. That tomorrow again I wake up early in the morning to take the children to kindergarten. And I have to get some rest.
cosmin: [01:37:08.19] And at the same time, you are also thinking about the new job. So you don't have the motivation you would have had otherwise.
courier3 - liliana: [01:37:15.78] Yes. I know I'm going to start a job at the real estate agency. And I hope to excel there and I put all my hopes in that job. I'm going to give it up because I can't do them at the same time.
robi: [01:37:38.29] The worst thing is when the same people who are super exploited become defenders of the system in this way. As a personal experience, he also had discussions with my father. At one point the USR party wanted to introduce some law that would put some limitation on how many overtime hours you can work. I argued with my father, because he said that they don't let us work. I said, wait a second. That's a sign that the wages are low, not that they don't let you work every Sunday or anything like that. You end up with someone who is super exploited and works, I don't know, 200 hours a week [actually 100, not 200] defending the system. Simply because you don't ... As you said Adi, that you don't see another horizon or another way of doing things. That you no longer see that there is another possible world. To use the established phrase. I mean it's sad and revolting at the same time.
adi: [01:38:27.82] Just on a more optimistic note, I think that it can still be repaired by pushing other practices, other discourses in the public space. And trying to do, look, and this kind of research that Cosmin is doing. It will have, as I say, a production behind it, an academic output. But it seems to me that the stake of Cosmin's research is precisely a social stake after all. And dare I say, maybe even a little militant. And then, precisely at this point, let me say that it seems important to me that there are such voices, but that they also have a research behind them. A solid foundation and some data, some experiences.
adi: [01:39:07.54] And all the more the presence in the space -- I'm not saying only in the academic space, but in the public space -- of such voices, researches, speeches, I think it's something that must be encouraged. And in itself that's a good thing, even if it's a pretty rare bird. And now I was thinking of you telling us Cosmin, how did you think of making this bridge between the university, the academy, a research, let's say, which otherwise might risk getting lost on some dusty shelves. And the dimension is more dynamic, more social, more militant.
cosmin: [01:39:42.28] Yes. Well, on the one hand, I have a background as a journalist. And I think I have this training, aside from not being very theoretical, many times when I write things that I ended up writing now, since I reprofiled myself as an academic. I try to keep as fair a balance as I can between the theory part and the empirical part, so to speak. From the beginning I thought that this kind of research must be what is called action research. Respectively, to try together with those with whom I do research, to understand together how these working conditions can be improved. And how can I personally, in my capacity, coming from a neoliberal university, as it happens, actually assist them in their efforts. If they deem it necessary.
cosmin: [01:40:46.57] Now, as I told you, both in Great Britain and here, we have not reached some contexts in which there will be an effervescence of protests and strikes, as I imagined that it could be or should be. Considering that a lot of people who wrote on this topic were writing about these moments, somehow. And there were not a few, on the other hand. And then all my action research effort in working with these people had to be focused on something other than seeing how I could somehow put myself to their service if they wanted to strike. Then I tried to do, for example, an initial project of an online platform that I wanted to develop. It was to make a kind of wiki page where people can give all kinds of advice to each other when it comes to tips and tricks. About the job. Because many learn firsthand, and often very hard, what work entails. Including opposite collective organization. How do we call a strike, for example.
cosmin: [01:41:55.05] And seeing that this was happening to some extent on group chats. At the same time, solidarity and collective action in the form of strike or protest was not looming either in Manchester or here. I kind of said ok, what would be another way that I can still bring the problems that these people are having into the public space? And somehow, also because in the discussions I had with the couriers, as I told you, there was often an entrepreneurial speech. In which people somehow convinced themselves that they were in an ok, if not really good, job.
cosmin: [01:42:35.95] On the other hand, my experience on the job, doing that job, was completely different from what they told me many times. What they were telling me, not what was happening to them. And then I said “Let me see what your work day looks like. And let's focus on work as it happens, not work as we describe it and describe it to ourselves as reality.” And following this idea I said “You know what would be very interesting for someone who orders his coffee at 9 in the morning, and he is on Calea Turzii and I pedal 5 km to him on Saturday morning.” Thinking that I will have to be careful not to take it up a very steep hill, not to spill these coffees all the way to Calea Turzii. That man must somehow understand the work behind it.
cosmin: [01:43:26.43] The site I'm going to launch is going to be exactly with stories about what the work means, as I captured it while these people were doing it. And I do this through the GPS routes I record. Through the audio notes I take hour by hour to their couriers. By means of the earnings that I somehow present as the day unfolds. And through these illustrations that I make together with a handful of artists. Alin Tămășan, Ionuț Dulămită, Jose Sherwood and Oana Lohan.
cosmin: [01:44:06.21] Just somehow to keep aside the anonymity of these people, but somehow to reach a wider audience. To an audience that does not have the time and inclination and ability, perhaps, to read an academic article. And then, through such a multimedia and interactive project, to somehow try to bring a wider audience, as close as possible to what it could mean in the skin of the worker. And which often describes in more optimistic terms what the work he does entails and all its corporeality and all the affective register that unfolds throughout a day. Sitting, waiting, tiring and so on.
adina: [01:44:51.72] I was wondering as part of your research if you happen to look a little bit at the public policies and the legislative framework, so to speak, from different countries. Because, I don't know, I think it's possible that there are still some differences in states that maybe have a slightly stronger welfare state, compared to states that go more in the direction of a minimalist role of the state. To have perhaps slightly different positions compared to this story with gig work and work flexibility. Have you looked a bit in this comparative area? Or do you know how to say a little about it?
cosmin: [01:45:40.05] Not yet. And probably in France I will be able to do this. I expect the situation to be a little different there. I couldn't say that there are very big differences between Great Britain and Romania. Beyond these work arrangements. On the other hand, in other countries in Europe, various governments have started trying to legislate this field of work rather than others. For example, Spain recently passed a law requiring these platforms to consider these workers as employees.
cosmin: [01:46:18.96] But, as I was saying, I think that at the moment these laws and the way they differ from country to country, I think they make a difference only up to a point. Given that, as I was saying, these platforms have armies of lawyers who are basically spin doctors. Who know the legislation and who succeed in advocating for the positioning of these companies as technology companies. Which exempts them from playing by the rules of taxi companies, for example, or hotel companies. We are talking about AirBnB. Or companies in the field of deliveries, in the present case.
cosmin: [01:47:03.54] And then, somehow they manage to absolve themselves of all the obligations they should have towards their employees. And as long as, for example, in Spain these platforms, although they are required to hire people, they mediate the relationship with them through subcontracting companies, these legislations are practically useless. And then even progressive legislations, as they might be, often hit this roadblock. Because of this problem, that these companies somehow manage to... Or they simply leave the market if they realize that they will have to hire all of those they had under the Pfa, self-employed regime.
adina: [01:47:49.97] I remembered now the protest that was in Bucharest, I think, two years ago. It was a taxi driver protest against Uber and the taxi law. And I was thinking that so, somehow there is still some reaction from some companies that may feel threatened by these companies. Please, this is actually a different topic. Although by extension what are you studying.
cosmin: [01:48:21.02] I think this is happening. But further, now this European directive would enter into force. And the question is with what consequences? The moment these platforms are forced to classify workers as employees, they practically disappear. Because their operating costs suddenly cannot be covered if the thousands of couriers you take on treat them as self-employed, they suddenly become employees, to which they have all the related responsibilities.
cosmin: [01:48:55.10] It's interesting what will happen to these platforms, in what way they will reinvent themselves in such a way that they continue to avoid responsibility towards their duties as employers, as they actually are. Because there are some companies currently listed on the stock exchange, which are worth billions of euros. So I guess they won't just disappear. Just as we have dilemmas with Facebook today, that it is too big to fail. I think we somehow end up in similar situations with the gig economy platforms. I mean, Uber still has no employees, the way they are asked and told that in fact this is the classification they should have, opposite those who work here.
robi: [01:49:45.64] Here I wouldn't be so ... I don't even know, optimistic or pessimistic. That these companies will disappear. I mean, please, they make pretty big profits and I think they can absorb the extra costs. If employees are employed with all full rights. One in hand. And two, if some are disbanded, especially the big ones, maybe it will be a good place to form cooperatives to fill this gap. No, there will be a moment when there are already many couriers or other such workers with several years of experience. And maybe it will be a good ground to form alternatives for them, if they disappear. I'm really optimistic about what will happen if these companies are forced to treat employees as employees.
cosmin: [01:50:30.38] It's interesting what's happening even in Spain, which is the first country in Europe where the problem was raised in this way. Reclassification. And, for example, I know that Deliveroo has gone out of business. Glovo, which is a Spanish company... I don't know exactly what happened there. But somehow some of the workers were reclassified, others were not. Probably if they do this, including the number of such couriers will no longer be of the order of thousands in each city. And then those kinds of jobs won't be as accessible anymore. Or flexible, really. And it's interesting as well. I mean yes, and I agree that they won't just disappear, and that's not what's going to happen. But it is interesting the way from the moment they will have to classify the workers. Or the problem will be posed in this way.
robi: [01:51:24.12] That's how neoliberalism works. When there is only one implementing country, surely the companies immediately relocate, or close their branches in certain countries, because no. There is a big difference in how much profit I make. But if implemented in most countries, this type of law is different.
adi: [01:51:41.24] I was thinking that I had seen something in the news this morning about Foodpanda withdrawing from Romania...
cosmin: [01:51:46.13] Yes, yes.
adi: [01:51:46.13] I understand that they sent a message that everyone is directed to another company please. But they retreated. I don't know exactly what the reasons are.
cosmin: [01:51:54.35] They were taken by Glovo.
adi: [01:51:56.21] Were they absorbed?
cosmin: [01:51:57.38] Absorb. Yes. By Glovo.
adi: [01:51:59.84] I understand.
cosmin: [01:51:59.84] And, no. They decided to practically sell their operations in Romania, precisely in this idea where they realized that they cannot become the market leader or the 2nd place on the market. And then they preferred to withdraw. And that's what other platforms have done, in all kinds of markets where they've opened operations. They realized that they were not going to become the market leader or second place anytime soon, and that's when they decided to retire. The market is consolidating, that's been clear for some time. And there are still two, maximum three, such platforms almost everywhere, as they stand out.
adi: [01:52:36.63] I can't wait to see the discussions, to see all the illustrations. Because I saw on the website the ones that are already available. Some of them. And each one like that tells a story and, we could say, individualizes that point that appears on the GPS map many times, when you look in the app. And say things differently. Put some meat on them. I understand that there will also be a zine at some point, released with these stories, with these illustrations. I am sincerely glad that I had the opportunity to be in Cosmin's proximity and see what he does and how he does it, and let's talk. Because it gave me a completely different perspective on things, and on the city, after all. And I thank Cosmin for wanting to tell the story and that, after all, look, I stayed and cut the thread in four tonight. I liked it a lot too. I think it was a very good discussion.
cosmin: [01:53:31.56] Yes. Thank you very much too. It was really a very productive discussion. Now my head is buzzing with ideas. Because now that I'm finishing my field, I have to think about things to start writing for the academic audience. And I've had a lot of good ideas today and tonight from the very fruitful and very nice discussions we've had together. And thank you very much.
NPC: [01:53:56.30] [outro collage]
robi: [01:54:11.55] That's it for today. For more information, we invite you to look at the resources section of the episode description. Find links to everything discussed there.
adi: [01:54:22.74] And don't forget that on the Pagini Libere[Free Pages] website, if you want to see Cosmin's research and how it came to fruition, you can find two very interesting zines made explicitly about de- Manchester on one side, Cluj on the other. They are very interesting and cool zines, especially because they benefit from a lot of illustrations. Basically, the message or stories are told through different illustrations. The stories of the deliverers that Cosmin documents. So, if you go to Pagini Libere, you will find there the two zines already and a third zine[ which is in preparation, but which will probably only come out in the summer. And which will be just like that, with illustrations from Lyon, where Cosmin is now.
robi: [01:55:13.71] The art of the episode was made by Cristian Grecu. The music is the song Altfel, by the band Avoid Evrthn. And here and there you hear clips from Kevin MacLeod's incompetech website. Until next time. Take care. See you soon.
NPC: [01:56:09.83] [music: “Altfel” by Avoid Evrthn]