On Sunday 15 April in Bologna the first national assembly of food delivery workers took place.
Organised by the “Riders’ Union Bologna”, it drew delegates from nearly all of the largest cities as well as delegates from similar collectives in Belgium and France; and from Italy, observers came from the main trade unions, federal and otherwise.
The initiative was the culmination of a series of actions involving militants from Bologna over the last 18 months, collectively addressing the needs of the thousands of workers in the gig economy increasingly at the mercy of the multinational corporate grip on the home delivery food industry.
Only a week previously, an industrial tribunal in Turin ruled against an action brought against the food giant Foodora by six workers arbitrarily sacked, ruling that “you are not workers but volunteers”.
It was the first such case and ruling in Italy, and almost certainly the precursor to others as the challenge by those gathered in Bologna on the 15th mounts. The experience of the comrades in Bologna has been crucial, beginning with local protests, marches and mass meetings, seeing a network of solidarity slowly emerge, which is the primary and crucial condition to smash the isolation so instrumental to the power of the bosses.
The network has addressed immediate needs like the collectivisation of bicycle maintenance, accommodation to use between one shift and another, and the resolution of myriad of on-the-job problems. These fights have been integral to the formation of a collective to push for contractual status and other demands of independent workers in the city and region.
Bologna’s success has seen the collective’s “charter of rights of digital workers” presented to and accepted by the city’s council. The charter lays out the conditions for protecting of guaranteed wages as against piecework, hours of work and rights, including trade unions, and protection from discrimination, racism and so on.
The decision to launch a one day general strike of “Riders” at the end of the month is proof of the growing combativity and singlemindedness of these workers as May Day approaches.