Couriers at Delivery Club, a food delivery company in Moscow, staged a strike on Friday to protest at fines and impossible work demands. Their ranks have swelled five times over during the coronavirus lockdown. These two reports were translated and published by the Russian Reader.
Report by RTV1, 5 June:
Couriers at the food delivery service Delivery Club in Moscow held a strike on 5 June. According to them, working conditions at the company have recently taken a turn for the worse. For example, the company has started giving couriers long-distance orders, as well as
frequently fining them. The workers walked out in protest. Our correspondent followed the industrial action and listened to the protesters’ demands.
Around forty couriers, nearly all of them wearing the company’s bright green raincoats, came to Delivery Club’s offices this afternoon. The couriers did not chant slogans. They wanted to speak with company management. Although they were not deterred by heavy rain and waited for over two hours, no one from Delivery Club management came out to speak with them.
In a conversation with RTVI, one of the protesters expressed his dismay.
“We have gathered here to get them to cancel the excessive fines against us. Take me: I deliver on foot. I used to get orders within a three-kilometer range, but now they’ve been sending me as far away as five kilometers. Think for yourself how a foot courier can walk so many kilometers and how long that takes,” he said.
According to him, this can cause him to arrive an hour late to a customer’s home or office.
“Then the customer gives us a funny look. But if we fail to take the orders, the company fines us,” he explained.
Another courier said that he and his fellow strikers wanted the company to go back to the old rules, under which workers were able to make all their deliveries on time and none of them was fined.
“Delivery drivers make 3000 to 5000 rubles [approx. 40 to 65 euros] for 14 to 16 hours of work, if they do 30 orders. Foot couriers make three to three and half thousand rubles max. At the end of our shifts, management can issue six or seven fines. Each fine amounts to 300 rubles, so that comes to 1800 rubles [approx. 23 euros],” another young man said.
The couriers say that in the past, when orders were issued within the areas where they chose to work, they were always on time, because they knew, for example, where they could shorten their routes.
“We had everything worked out. Now the situation has changed. We bring people cold food, and I don’t think Delivery Club wants its reputation to suffer. I would like to go back to the old rules,” a female courier said.
The delivery drivers also have problems. They told RTVI about Delivery Club’s clumsy system for compensating their petrol costs. For example, they can be ordered to pick up food from a restaurant far away from their original location, but Delivery Club does not compensate them for their travel there. They are compensated only for travel from the restaurant to the customer, which, according to them, is a small amount of money.
Report by TV 360°, 4 June [the day before the strike]:
The couriers coordinated their actions in community Telegram chats. A day before the strike, the Telegram channel Rasstriga, citing one of the couriers, reported the upcoming strike, forcing Delivery Club to announce that they were verifying the report. A spokesperson for the company said that during the period of self-isolation there had been more orders, and consequently the average earnings of their couriers and drivers had increased.
The same day, a video message from couriers in the Moscow suburb of Khimki was posted on Rasstriga. One of the speakers compared the work of delivery drivers to that of taxi drivers. According to him, they had to travel all over the city.
“We all have families, and we all have children to feed as well,” another courier added.
On the morning of 5 June, Delivery Club issued a statement saying that the dissatisfaction of couriers could have been sparked by an experiment with increasing the size of delivery areas. However, the company added, the test was only carried out for a few days, and was terminated before there were reports of an impending strike. Now, according to the company, all unfair fines for couriers had been canceled, and the company had begun returning money previously paid in fines to the couriers.
Ivan Weiss, the head of the Union of Couriers of Russia, also spoke about the problems of delivery people. In a conversation with TV 360°, he said that many couriers and drivers were fined unfairly.
Weiss gave an example.
“A person starts work at 2:15 pm, and they already have several unfulfilled orders from 2:05 pm, and so they end up getting fined 1500 rubles. There is no limit to the indignation a person feels when they need to earn this money.”
Weiss also spoke about the expanded delivery areas. According to him, a foot courier can be asked to pick up an order five or six kilometers away. Weiss also said that while he supported the couriers at Delivery Club, holding an outdoor protest during the self-isolation period could backfire on them.
■ Gabriel Levy adds: People & Nature has reported before on labour and social movements in Russia, Ukraine and other former Soviet countries, and so I thought readers might be interested in this.
For one thing, it shows how much Russia has in common with other countries: couriers in the UK (see here and here for example) and elsewhere have been at the front lines of organising in the last couple of years. For another, such actions, however small, are part of a global resistance that is erupting as the coronavirus pandemic turns labour and social relations upside down.
The Feverstruggle site is collecting reports on this. As for commentary, I would point to the Angry Workers of the World’s thoughts about The Covid-19 regime and the working class: potentials for unification versus new divisions. 8 June 2020.