GMB and Deliveroo deal. The GMB union and Deliveroo have signed an ‘historic’ Voluntary Partnership Agreement. The GMB says that the deal will give the union ‘rights to collective bargaining on pay and consultation rights on benefits and other issues, including riders’ health, safety and wellbeing’. The deal does not change Deliveroo riders’ status as self-employed, a status which has been reaffirmed by a series of court judgements. According to GMB this represents an ‘innovative’ solution to organising gig economy workers. 

  • PR stunt? The Guardian reports that the deal does not secure the minimum wage for Deliveroo couriers because they are not paid while they are checked into the app and waiting for an order. The Independent Workers’ union of Great Britain (IWGB) has dubbed the deal a ‘cynical PR move’ and says that it presents ‘no threat to [Deliveroo’s] exploitative business practices’. The IWGB has been organising Deliveroo riders since 2016 was due to bring an appeal to the Supreme Court over their collective bargaining case. Professor of Labour Law, Alan Bogg, explains the deal’s implications for IWGB’s legal case
  • The gig is up. The Deliveroo case follows a judgement last year that was set to ‘reshape the gig economy’ which defined Uber drivers as workers rather than self-employed. The Institute for Employment Rights (IER) has more detail here. Similarly, Just Eat announced last year that it would move towards employing its riders as workers with hourly wages, sick pay and pension contributions.
  • Barriers to collective bargaining. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has analysed common barriers facing gig economy workers in their attempts to achieve collective bargaining. These include ‘1) promoting common interests – and overcoming competition – among workers; 2) determining a site (or multiple sites) of agglomeration – virtual, or preferably real – so as to overcome isolation; 3) identifying the bargaining counterpart, and 4) targeting a source of power to make a collective claim’.
  • Not just food. Over recent years, there has been a rapid increase in the use of platforms to advertise care work. Helen Hester explores the ‘platform care economy’ and argues that ‘purely technical solutions’ are not enough to reckon with the conditions of care work itself. 

Platform cooperatives. The same ILO study explores the rise of gig economy worker cooperatives and how they have generally taken on two different forms: platform cooperatives which operate in competition with standard gig platforms and cooperatives where workers can pool resources for improved services. Examples of the former camp include Wings, who pay workers the London Living Wage and various cooperatives across Europe. Kristin Toussaint explores how gig economy cooperatives flourished during the pandemic. Autonomy presents food delivery cooperatives as an alternative to the current system, and has produced a ‘how to’ guide for setting up a food delivery cooperative. Autonomy's James Muldoon argues that developing ‘digital economy’ cooperatives should be seen as just one aspect ‘of a broader shift of wealth and power towards workers’.

  • Barriers to platform cooperatives. Edward Qualtrough explores why platform cooperatives have ‘yet to challenge Big Tech’, suggesting that cooperatives would be more successful with more government support
  • ‘Disruption’ by workers? Rida Qadri argues that ‘disruption’ is a two-way street and that it is not just tech companies that can benefit from innovation. Examples include ‘drivers who reverse-engineer a popular mobility platform’s matching algorithm to make their work life better’ (more coverage in Vice). 

Employment Bill. Conservative MP Damian Collins argued earlier this year that an employment bill would be a chance for the government to protect gig economy workers. However, the government has yet again shelved the bill despite promising to introduce it 20 times, with TUC accusing the government of “turning its back” on working people. The Employment Bill was expected to ensure that tips go to workers in full and also create a new single enforcement body offering greater protections for workers. The TUC says that such a bill is urgently needed to stop another P&O-type scandal from happening. (See our previous Digest for more on the P&O scandal and ‘fire and rehire’ policies.)

Weekly Updates

Finance and ownership

Financial Services Bill U-turn. The government reportedly made a “last minute U-turn” and dropped ‘sustainability disclosure requirements’ (SDRs) from the forthcoming Financial Services Bill and reaffirmed its intention to introduce an objective for the financial regulators to promote international competitiveness. 

Crypto-crash. The FT’s Scott Chipolina and Katie Martin reports that the future of cryptocurrency markets are being questioned after Luna - a ‘stablecoin’ (pegged to the US dollar) - crashed last week. Research firm CryptoCompare called it “the largest destruction of wealth in this amount of time in a single project in crypto’s history”.

  • Lessons for regulators. Business Law Professor Ryan Clements predicted the inherent fragility of algorithmic stablecoins in a peer reviewed article: “Algorithmic stablecoins require a support level of demand for the entire ecosystem to operate. If demand falls below a threshold level, the entire system will fail.” The author recommends “a strong regulatory framework…for algorithmic stablecoins, which currently serve only speculative DeFi trading applications and have very little, if any, societal or financial inclusionary value.

What’s the Deal with Asset Management? Common Wealth’s Adrienne Buller has produced a briefing on ‘asset manager capitalism’ and explained why the concentration of company ownership is a threat to climate mitigation efforts. (New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo has also curated peer-reviewed evidence on the harmful effects of concentrated ownership upon workers and consumers.)

  • Proposal for a public asset manager. The Roosevelt Institute’s Lenore Palladino presents the economic case for a public asset manager to invest in the economy “act as an entity with the ability to redirect household investments in a manner that is aligned with their overall economic interest in a healthy planet and equitable economy“.

Industrial strategy

Procurement Bill In the Queen's Speech last week, the Government outlined how a Procurement Bill can “boost business” and “take advantage of the benefits of Brexit”. Procurement rules dictate how ~£280bn (⅓ of all) central government spending is allowed to be spent as the UK moves away from EU single market rules.

  • Opportunities after state-aid. The Bill aims to make “public procurement more accessible for new entrants such as small businesses and voluntary, charitable and social enterprises, enabling them to compete for public contracts”. Smaller contracts will be restricted to UK suppliers under World Trade Organization Rules. Open Contracting’s Executive Director Gavin Hayman lists what they (and the UK Anti-Corruption Coalition) want to see changed, the progress made in procurement reform, and a response from leading anti-corruption experts.

Green industrial strategy, political economy and national security. The Conservative Mayor of Tees Valley is reportedly lobbying Green Lithium to build one of Europe’s first lithium refineries in Teeside’s freeport. Western countries are beginning to reshore supply chains for commodities needed for the green transition. Lithium is a key component of electric car batteries but its production is largely monopolised by Chinese firms. 

Levelling down. Bloomberg launched its levelling up map of the UK featuring analysis of each parliamentary constituency by 12 socioeconomic indicators based on the ‘missions’ in the Levelling Up White Paper. (See our analysis from a previous Digest.) Headline: “the overwhelming majority of constituencies have fallen further behind since Johnson became PM”.


Sectoral collective bargaining in New Zealand. The FT’s Sarah O’Connor reports on New Zealand's new law introducing ‘fair pay agreements’, where employers and unions negotiate agreements that set minimum floors for pay and conditions across entire sectors of the economy. An experiment “whose success or failure will have ripple effects on policy well beyond its shores”. 

Spain introduces ‘menstrual leave’. Spain becomes the first Western country to allow up to 3 days leave each month from people who suffer from severe period pains.

Inflation and energy

Ofgem will change energy price cap every 3 months. Money Saving Expert Founder Martin Lewis “lost his rag” at a background briefing with Ofgem as they announced the Energy Price Cap will now change every 3 months rather than 6

  • Regulatory capture? Lewis stated “it feels like at every turn, in these desperate times where lives are at risk, [Ofgem] has ignored all asks for consumers and instead kowtowed to the industry…instead of listening to calls to scrap its proposed market stabilisation charge, it was making it harsher to really ‘stop the harmful effects of competition’” which will “lock in advantage to higher charging incumbent former monopoly firms”.

Energy Bills Rebate II? The Telegraph reported that Chancellor Rishi Sunak “is now working up a package [of support for rising household energy bills] for August, when Ofgem, the energy regulator, will announce the new price cap, but is under pressure - given the overall mood in the country - to move faster”.

Brexit and food price inflation. A research paper from UK in a Changing Europe found that a drop in imports from the EU after Brexit has caused an increase in domestic food prices: “Part of this change is driven by the adjustment costs incurred as part of the new trading relationship and is likely to be short term, but another part is likely to reflect a long-term increase in the cost of inputs from the EU.”

Decarbonising heat and buildings. The Government has published its response from its consultation for a “market-based mechanism for low-carbon heat” and stated its plans to incentivise gas boiler manufacturers to switch to cleaner, more efficient, technologies. From 2024, boiler manufacturers will be obliged to sell an increasing proportion of heat pumps.

  • The German approach. The German government has announced a ‘summer package’ to decarbonise its heating sector underpinned by “a generous system of subsidies”. This brought forward the date to make heat pumps “the mandatory market standard” from as early as January 2024, where new boilers will be obliged to run on at least 65% renewable energy - installing new fossil fuel based systems will be banned.

Growing Conservative support for a windfall tax. Mel Stride, Chair of the House of Commons’ Treasury Committee, and Chair of the Education Committee Robert Halfon are some of the growing number of Conservative figures publicly supporting the Windfall tax on major oil and gas firms. Chancellor Rishi Sunak reportedly “warmed” to the idea last week.