Berlin Calling: Solidarity With Gorillas Workers Collective
Updated: Aug 4, 2021
*A fellow worker from IWW Ireland currently in Berlin, Germany has been regularly attending Gorillas Workers Collective strike actions across the city as their industrial dispute continues. This is one of two recent reports.
Lieferando, Bringmeister, Flaschenpost, DurstExpress, Wolt, Flink, FoodPanda, Gorillas and Getir, just some of the food and grocery delivery services fighting for a small market in (mainly just) inner city districts in Germany.
With their aggressive marketing with short delivery times and small delivery fees they depend on quick expansion, quick turnaround and a cheap and expendable workforce. Very few offer contracts at all, pretty much all fall down in the health and safety department. And it doesn't help their precarious drivers and riders that German employment law has ample loopholes for start-ups regarding workers' rights.
Gorillas has been on the market in Berlin for just about a year now and is a point in case. The company advertises their jobs with alleged 'perks': a contract (barely over the minimum wage and 1 year fixed term - half of it probation time with no workers' rights), untaxed tips (that's actually the law), work clothes and (e-)bikes (also actual employment law). Most bikes, electric or not, are rental bikes and not suitable for deliveries on Berlin's cobble stones, never mind matched size-wise to the riders.
Add to that unsuitable work clothes (Berlin does have seasons), bags that are clearly too heavy and cause injury, wages and tips not paid on time (or at all), and the riders had enough and have started to organise. The organisational concept of the company, many small warehouses in delivery areas and frequently unsuitable waiting space for the riders is causing issues with residential neighbours but also gave the riders opportunities to talk to each other and to assess working conditions and grievances. Attempts to elect and form a work council are ongoing and have been continuously obstructed by the company which now even has split the business into two entities and has also started to employ day labourers.
Gorillas Workers Collective
From the first protests at the beginning of the year over unsuitable clothing for riding in snow and ice to a wildcat strike in June over the dismissal of fellow riders as well as missing wages and more issues with working gear and conditions in heavy summer rains and temperatures over 35 °C the riders have ruffled a lot of feathers with their bosses and made enough waves for the German Employment minister to now ask for a meeting. The 'Gorillas Workers Collective' can not only, as per advertising, deliver but also organise in under 10 minutes and, since a catalogue of demands agreed by the riders several weeks ago has been mostly ignored by the company, it is preparing their next actions.
Their solidarity with each other is exemplary (not sure that is what the boss envisaged with his blethering on about them all being family), and urgently necessary for all areas of the gig and convenience economy.
The workers organising against their exploitation comes potentially at a high cost for them, many riders at Gorillas are still on their six months probation and can be sacked at any time, some have their working permit tethered to the job and could lose their residence status. Their fight for better working conditions is shining a stark light on the situation in the wider gig economy, creates awareness for the dark side of convenience and outsourcing and needs support and solidarity from all of us.
An injury to one is an injury to all!
Gorillas Workers Collective on Twitter HERE
Gorillas Workers have recently set up a strike fund to help them through these challenging moments which have led workers to take direct action amidst hostility from bosses at a high personal stake. Strike Fund HERE