Doing gig work: Social implications of platform-based food deliveries

This research aims to study the platform-based gig economy and its reconfiguration of urban spaces by investigating the management, solidarity and resistance of cycle couriers in three European cities: Manchester, Lyon (France) and Cluj-Napoca (Romania). The project is funded by Leverhulme Trust.

What is the need?

Companies such as Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Glovo are currently valued in billions of pounds and subcontract tens of thousands of delivery riders in over 200 cities across all continents. Their operations have wider implications on other types of work as they function as laboratories where new techniques of management, control, mistreatment and extraction of profit are tested and refined.

The project engages in gig work to better understand these communities, how their members develop strategies for better working life, assist them in forging links with stakeholders with vested interests in their cause and promote alternatives to the gig economy. The project also seeks to understand how new platform technologies alter food consumption habits.

What are we doing?

The research will involve qualitative (ethnographic work, focus groups) and quantitative (surveys) work to provide a better understanding of how the gig economy impacts on the daily life of these workers and contribute to developing a transnational solidarity network amongst couriering services workers.

The research will engage collaboration with and benefit stakeholders across a range of academic and non-academic disciplines: social movement scholars; (inter)national trade unions and courier organisations; co-operative societies; national employment services; health experts and urban designers.

What will be the outcomes?

Beyond academic outputs, the project seeks to produce a series of illustrated materials (graphic novels) and wiki-style interactive digital platforms. Their aim is to help with raising awareness of the precarious nature of platform work to the public; organising solidarity across borders; and developing alternatives to contemporary mainstream food delivery platforms.

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