Gorillas delivery service responds to workers’ strike | Business | Economic and financial news from a German point of view | DW
Several dozen Berlin-based delivery men were sacked by Gorillas Technologies on Monday, October 4 for participating in strikes against the company to protest unfair working conditions.
The Gorillas Workers Collective, a group of workers who have previously held strikes against the company, called for a protest against the layoffs outside the company’s headquarters in Prenzlauer Berg on Wednesday afternoon. About 150 protesters gathered for several hours, during which the headquarters entrance doors remained locked.
Duygu Kaya was one of the Gorillas riders who were dismissed. She had also participated in actions and meetings with the workers’ collective.
“They fired some of us with dismissal letters and others with phone calls,” Kaya said. “The workers received calls from private numbers and were asked: ‘Did you take part in the strikes? “And if they said yes, they were fired.”
Kaya estimates that around 30 to 40 workers have been made redundant, although she suspects that Gorillas Technologies intends to rehire some of the workers now that the strikes have effectively been quelled.
Asked to comment, Gorillas Technologies said: “There have been a series of unannounced wildcat strikes, blockades and barricading of warehouse emergency exits by employees at a number of our sites in Berlin and Leipzig. spontaneous strikes like these are not allowed and therefore have no legal basis. “
Strikes against the company intensified in July when workers at Gorillas succeeded in blocking warehouses
Yet laid-off employees like Kaya see it differently.
“The idea that wildcat strikes are illegal is based on decisions from the 1950s that were intended to discourage workers’ organizations, and I personally want to challenge that,” Kaya said. “The company was in breach of contract: it was not paying, it was not giving us safe equipment, and it was not giving us legal schedules,” she said.
On Twitter and messaging platforms, many Gorillas employees have shared screenshots of schedules that violate German labor law requiring workers to have 11 hours off between shifts.
“It’s illegal,” Kaya said, “and if the company commits illegal actions, the worker has the right to stop working until the company corrects those mistakes.”
Following a first strike in July this year, the Gorillas Workers Collective produced a list of demands. These requests included points about being paid a specific and equal pay, being scheduled in a way that allowed cyclists to take a few days off in a row, and having better equipment, like cargo bikes, for heavy loads.
The workers who decided to strike last week did so because they felt their demands had not been met.
Profit in the midst of fierce competition
Among the more recent concerns of workers is the feeling that the company has become obsessed with optimization at the expense of employees who are therefore expected to fill more orders in less time.
“With these optimizations, there is so much stress on every rider,” said Kaya. “According to the warehouse, some people can’t even take adequate breaks.”
According to the company’s website, Gorillas operates 16 different warehouses in Berlin. While warehouses operate under the same structure, their day-to-day operations are largely independent and they are known among employees to have very different atmospheres.
The recent strikes were organized by workers in three warehouses: in Bergmannkiez, Gesundbrunnen and Schoeneberg. Other warehouses in Berlin and other cities continued to operate as usual.
“For me at the moment there is no problem,” said a runner from the Schoenhauser Allee warehouse. “I see my supervisors helping out and everyone is doing their best to resolve the issues.”
However, in Bergmannkiez, where workers who went on strike were sacked, the workers’ collective reported that deliveries continued at the expense of only a few contract workers while the rest of the workforce was replaced by day laborers from Zenjob, an online platform that connects part-time workers with daily gig work.
Gorillas warehouses often use ZenJobs workers to replace them when they are understaffed, but replacing shifts of laid-off workers with gig workers potentially sets a new precedent. This could be seen as particularly ironic for a company that has proclaimed itself a “counter-model to the odd-job economy”.
“The CEO is from Turkey, just like me,” Kaya said. “Many of us have come to avoid the oppression there. Every biker in this company has his education or a diploma but cannot find a suitable job because they do not know German or their diplomas are not recognized. This CEO knows it and he uses it as a business tool. To see someone from my country exploit migrant labor in this way is quite hurtful.