Justice4Couriers: A year of campaigning

Our #justice4couriers campaign began a year ago when we staged a demonstration in front of the Foodora HQ and handed over our demands to the company. For many of us couriers, myself included, this campaign has been campaign of firsts: speaking publicly at demonstrations, sending out press releases, giving interviews to the media, writing analyses of the platform economy and taking part in grassroots labour organizing in Finland and internationally. When we launched the campaign, we were not quite sure what would happen. Now after a year of action, it seems in order to look back and see what we have accomplished.

Last year’s pay cuts issued by Foodora were the last straw for many couriers who had witnessed a steady deterioration of their working conditions, which were precarious from the start. Many of us couriers had realized that as freelancers we lacked all legal protections that many employees take for granted. We saw how our colleagues who were injured on the job were left on their own devices, how couriers paid for the maintenance of their own vehicles and if they could afford it, their own insurances and pensions. We saw the sacking of dispatchers and cost-saving measures through the automation of shift allocation, which caused many long-time couriers to miss out on shifts – and the pay they depended on. For weeks to come, we saw colleagues change their clothes out in the cold after the closing of social spaces, while hearing the shallow start-up hype of being “valued as delivery partners”. When the pay was cut, we got together and started organizing.

We did not know quite how, but we met with grassroots unionists from Vapaa syndikaatti and Vastavoima and began planning the campaign. We wanted to repeal the pay cuts, but we knew that in order to solve the problems of couriers, we needed to get them employment contracts.

When we started out #justice4couriers, I personally thought that we might be able to repeal the pay cuts, just maybe, without a larger impact and that it would end within a few months.

Instead the opposite happened. While Foodora ignored us, which it has done to this day, we were soon joined by Wolt couriers, and the media, trade unions and even politicians listened to our demands. Now, a year after, the problems of the gig economy and forced entrepreneurship are an established part of public discourse and the new government programme states that the circumvention of employer responsibilities will be stopped.

I have been active in #justice4couriers campaign since it’s very beginning. Now i’m abroad and not able to take part too much, but I am glad to see that the campaign is gaining new members and continues, while early actives take a break. The turnover of people is a sign of healthy campaign.

There are continuities: couriers still take the lead with the steadfast support of grassroots unionists and the campaign operates in a non-hierarchical and consensus-based manner. When we started the campaign, this form of organizing was not our explicit aim, but something which we just did in order for everyone to feel welcome. Only later did we realize that we have been working non-hierarchically and based on consensus.Personally, I feel that regardless of the outcome of #justice4couriers, creating such an environment for us to work in is one of our greatest accomplishments. Similarly, as an off-shoot of the campaign, couriers founded a grassroots collective called the Finnish Courier Collective, which seeks to create structures of mutual aid for bicycle couriers whether working for platform giants, employed or as independent couriers. We are currently setting up emergency funds and exploring other ways in which couriers can help each other.

Through this campaign we have also come into contact with fellow courier activists and unions over the world, and regularly discuss common issues, strategies and goals together.

While these are big accomplishments, we still struggle to get the pay cuts repealed and decent working conditions for couriers, who bear the economical and physical risks of the dangerous and demanding job. The physical task of delivery is the backbone of these companies, but couriers are the only ones at Wolt and Foodora who are denied even the most basic worker rights. Because of this, we keep organizing.

With Solidarity,

Tuomas Tammisto
researcher and courier

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