The Union of Journalists in Finland (UJF) and the Akava Special Branches (ASB) have issued a strike notice by audiovisual translators regarding the failure of talks on a new collective bargaining agreement. According to the unions, the biggest the main point of difference are the fees paid to self-employed translators that the employers do not want to include in the collective bargainining agreement. According to Petri Savolainen from UJF, 80% of translators cannot influence the prices of translation. Helena Lampinen from ASB further notes that the disagreement concerns more widely the position of self-employed that are dependent on their clients, namely virtual or sham entrepreneurs, and their part in collective bargaining. The strike notice is the first of its kind, namely issued by the self-employed, in Finland.
couriers working mostly under freelance agreements, we fully support the
demands by the AV-translators and their possible strike action. Like
the AV-translators and the unions note, the disagreement concerns all
the self-employed, freelancers and sham entrepreneurs dependent on their
client companies. Bringing the fees paid to the self-employed within
collective bargaining agreements would is important to secure the
livelihoods of the self-emplyoed and prevents for its part the
circumvention of employer responsibilities and the deflation of the
price of work through freelance contracts.
We support the demands
by AV-translators, because also in the transport sector there are
numerous car and bicycle couriers working as sham entrepreneurs
dependent on the companies for their income. As we have noted in our
campaign, the problem concerns not only couriers or translators, but the
self-employed working in several sectors and ultimately is a question
of how and under what conditions is work in our society done and how are
workers granted their minimum security.
Due to the vast amount of open shifts Foodora has been aggressively
recruiting new couriers to its ranks. Because the demand for workforce
is so high at the moment, the company has been speeding up the
recruiting process by abolishing the test rides of courier candidates.
But it’s not just Foodora, also Wolt is trying to cut the costs by
abridging the introduction of new couriers.
willing to work as Foodora’s couriers would fill the application on the
company’s website and then sign up for a test ride if they were picked.
The practices have changed several times, in the beginning you’d be
invited to an interview and introduction and then later do practice
deliveries to see if you could handle the work well enough. Then later
it was changed so that you’d follow your rider captain picking up and
delivering tasks and they would show you how the applications work,
where restaurants are and how you are expected to encounter restaurant
staff and customers. You’d get an idea about how fast-paced the work is
when you tried to keep up with your captain navigating through the city.
Then came the “go from a to b and take a selfie when you get to the
location” -option, which only measured the courier candidate’s ability
to move fast enough from one place to another. Now the new couriers
receive barely any introduction.
Wolt has been following this
trend by getting rid of introduction rides that courier candidates took
with senior couriers who would show them how to use the app, where some
of the restaurants are and how to communicate with restaurant staff as
well as customers. Now, just like at Foodora, there is only a video the
new couriers watch and that is supposedly enough for training for work
that requires skill, strength as well as understanding of the city plan
and how to navigate there.
It seems that these companies are
outsourcing the briefing to other couriers, perhaps short-sightedly
expecting to save from costs and the precious worktime of the rider
captains. New couriers are thrown into the field even without basic
knowledge on how to use the applications, how to manage shifts, log in
and accept deliveries, communicate with the dispatchers or even where
and how you are expected to work. We see rookies constantly asking same
questions in group chats about things that should be obvious to anyone
who has received an adequate introduction to the work.
the mindset of a courier takes time. You need to memorize the routes,
shortcuts, different practices in different restaurants, where to find
the backdoors and elevators, which roads are good and which are bad,
which routes to take to avoid traffic lights and which streets are
one-way, where to park and how to avoid parking fees. Both cyclists and
car drivers need to learn how to survive in terrible weather like we’ve
seen lately. When people are asked to work from home, because the
driving conditions are so bad, couriers are on the streets pushing
through the snow and slush delivering food to those ones at the comfort
of their homes.
To be a good courier it takes time, skill and motivation. It’s not something you learn by watching a 5-minute video.
These companies thrive on inequality. When the rate of unemployment is
high and there are others who’s place on the job market is low, it’s a
guarantee for companies like Wolt and Foodora to have a constant stream
of new couriers coming in. The turnover rate in these companies is high
and most of the couriers only work for a few weeks. Why bother to
introduce them properly and motivate and support your couriers when you
can just constantly hire new people? Surely this affects the quality of
the service and delivery times, but who cares as long as the companies
make money. When the money flow stops the companies migrate elsewhere
From the point of view of a courier working for a platform company, the employment assumption is a sorely needed reform that would bring the working conditions and legal situation of those forced to work as sham entrepreneurs on par with the minimum standards as required by labor legislation. Even though the law is in fact very clear — if work is done in a dependent position, one is not an entrepreneur — in practice nobody guarantees the legal protection of platform workers or other sham entrepreneurs.
There is a regulatory vacuum in the growing
platform economy in Finland. The companies working in the field take
shamelessly advantage of people in a vulnerable position, especially
that of migrants, and their need to take on work under any conditions.
Due to this vulnerable position, the platform workers have to bear the
costs of both entrepreneurship and employment without the benefits of
For example, the couriers working as sham entrepreneurs for Foodora and Wolt are completely subjected to the unquestionable control of the companies during their work. They are expected to behave in particular ways, wear company uniforms, while expected to cover from their small pay all the side expenses of their work from insurances to equipment and bear all the risks from illness, accidents and the uncertainty over the continuity of work.
In the Justice4couriers
campaign we demand an end to the ruthless exploitation of the workforce
and the circumvention of the labor legislation that was purposefully
designed to protect workers. The platform economy and the companies
using its methods are no great innovations as presented in myths. The
great innovation is merely rhetorical; the treacherous definition of
workers as independent contractors.
It is the responsibility of
decision makers not to be overwhelmed by this development. If we want to
call our country a welfare state that is just and fair and that
respects the value of people, we must take control of this development
and bring it into the sphere of proper regulation.
In the past few weeks, it has snowed much in Finland. Up to the point that the police has on the worst days recommended that those who have the option, work from home, because road conditions have been bad. Still, couriers and drivers—whom Foodora and Wolt class as independent contractors or “delivery partners”—need to work.
On one of the
days with the heaviest snow, the car of a Foodora driver was stuck in
snow, and they could not make it to their shift. As the driver could not
cancel the shift 24 hours in advance, they received a “no show”, which
will make it harder to receive shifts in the future. When the driver
asked the “no show” to be revoked, as they could not make it, because
their car would not move, Foodora refused, because the driver could have
ordered tow truck—at the driver’s expense.
The couriers and
drivers have the responsibilities and obligations of an employee, they
cannot refuse orders that financially do not make sense to them, they
cannot miss shifts and they have to work according to the direction of
the dispatchers. However, they have none of the rights of an employee,
and if they are injured, fall ill or their vehicles break down, Foodora
and Wolt do not take any responsibility. By expecting the drivers and
couriers to behave like employees, but denying them the rights of
employees, and denying them the freedom of freelancers, Foodora and Wolt
try to have it both ways.
The “flexibility” that Foodora and Wolt advertise as a benefit of the freelancer contract is only beneficial for the companies.
Yesterday Deliveroo couriers in the United Kingdom went—again—on strike for better pay and basic worker rights. Like Foodora and Wolt couriers, our colleagues at Deliveroo are denied pensions, sick pay, insurances and work in danger conditions for poor pay.
“Every time we have struck, we have won better pay. They’re the Empire, and we’re the Rebels. And this is the moment where we just found out there is a hole in the Death Star. Without us, they don’t have an app.”
Both bike and car courier work in traffic, where accidents cannot always be avoided. Because of this it is of utmost importance that couriers have insurances and the possibility for sick leave and pay. The food delivery companies offer none of this: in Finland too, Foodora and Wolt courier work especially in the winter in very difficult conditions without the companies offering them even the minimum security. The risk of an accident is increased, because the small pay—that both Foodora and Wolt cut—of the couriers is paid by the number of delivered orders. So couriers are encourage to ride more, faster and longer.
And as the tragic accident of Bordeaux shows, bike couriers who are in a
most vulnerable position can wind up in an accident that was not of
their doing. Foodora and Wolt, take responsibility of your couriers on
whose work you businesses are based!
Foodora is looking for new couriers and in its ad it mentions the “flexible freelance agreement” as one of the work’s benefits. A freelance agreement is however only a benefit for Foodora, not for the couriers. The freelance status excludes the couriers from all basic worker rights: the couriers pay their own pensions, have no insurance, no sick pay and their pay can be cut or they can be fired at any time without any reason.
Both Foodora and Wolt offer only freelance contracts to their couriers. This is a common practice internationally too, also Deliveroo, Glovo and UberEATS circumvent worker rights with freelance contracts.
The couriers are however struggling for
their rights and have recently gained notable victories: in Turin the
court ruled that Foodora had wrongly classed five couriers as
freelancers. An even greater victory was gained in the Netherlands where
the court decided that all Deliveroo freelance couriers are in fact
employees and Deliveroo must adhere to the collective agreement of the
transport and logistics sector.
We call for Wolt and Foodora to negotiate with its couriers, because the time of denying workers their rights is over.
The new year has started in difficult weather: the roads have been extremely slippery, the wind strong and today it snows heavily. Bicycle couriers work in any kind of weather, but Foodora and Wolt couriers have to work under bad conditions without insurances or the possibility for sick leave. Foodora removed brake spaces from its couriers over a year ago and despite its promises, the company has not provided new ones. So the old problems continue into the new year and thus we continue our work to improve the working conditions of bike and car couriers.
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The morning delivery personnel of Helsingin Sanomat, Finland’s largest daily newspaper, have been classed as independent contractors, who pay for their own pensions, insurances and equipment, even though they work for Early Bird, the delivery company owned by Helsingin Sanomat. In the past, the delivery personnel were regularly employed. There have been problems in the morning delivery, as many workers have quit, because of the bad working conditions.
From the start of
the campaign, we have argued that this is not only about food couriers,
but about a wider attempt to worsen working conditions through freelance
contracts, which shift more and more risks to the employees. The
newspaper morning delivery is but one example.
committee notes that clear legal rules concerning the platform economy
are needed. Now de facto employers may circumvent legal obligations of
employers. More so, the committee notes that the definition of
employment could be expanded to cover
those who now work as freelancers dependent on the platform companies
and that they should receive the same rights and responsibilities as
those employed with traditional contracts.
As couriers who work in different situations as employees, self-employed and “fake freelancers” for platform companies, we welcome the statement by the committee. We hope that decision makers take the advice of the committee and that companies like Foodora and Wolt begin negotiations with their workers.