Cyprus: Wolt delivery workers strike over after vindictive terminations

On February 16 the majority of Wolt delivery workers in Larnaca went on strike. This is the first attempt of a collective action for higher wages and better working conditions after the strike that was organised one and half year ago. The same day, they were expecting their colleagues in Nicosia to start as well, but they didn’t.

One and half year ago, Wolt workers in Nicosia, Larnaca and Limassol went on strike for more than 10 days. They got the support by a solidarity movement but also PEO, the trade union affiliated to the traditional left party AKEL, who represented them in the negotiations with the company. At the end of that strike, the workers took the promise that they will get a collective agreement while their work status will be negotiated with the government. However, one and half year after, there is still no result.

Moreover, during the last few weeks, the payment for the rides was reduced, while when the same rider takes more than one delivery, the second delivery is paid less. Still there is no compensation for rainy days or other extreme weather phenomena while the delivery drivers are faced with a lot of bad behaviour either by establishment owners, or by customers for no fault of their own.

The workers did share their grievances to their agents, to their fleet managers and their operation managers, but nothing changed. Therefore they decided to go on a strike.

The response of the company was immediate. From the first day of the strike workers were getting their accounts terminated.

The company even mobilised managers from Greece to call the strikers and threaten them that they will report them to the police. This was a shallow threat, because being on strike is legal, but as most of the workers are either asylum seekers or students a report to the police is a threat to deportation. 

Local fleet managers were mobilised to threaten the strikers that if they don’t go back to work their accounts will be terminated.

Therefore on Saturday hour by hour, more and more people went back to work and on Sunday night the strike was off.

From the 80 strikers, 25 accounts were terminated.

On Monday morning, members of the operation team talked to the delivery workers that were outside of the Wolt market pretending like nothing happened, asking the workers why they didn’t come to them with their grievances and went on a strike!

Delivery workers are in their vast majority foreign students or asylum seekers. This makes them more vulnerable. Even though nobody can remove their residence permit because they went on strike, they feel that this is a constant threat hanging over their head.

At the same time, they lack of organisation. Other than some WhatsApp groups they are part of, no other form of organisation exists. The “union” that was formed last year is nowhere to be found, while PEO visited them on Friday but didn’t follow up with their situation.

The workers in delivery platforms need to get organised in their own unions, plan their actions thoroughly and create conditions that the workers can feel confident to fight for their rights. The problems faced by the workers of Wolt today, are faced also in other companies, and do not discriminate of nationality or colour.

Platform workers struggles need the support of the whole of society. They are the ones that bring our food and beverages, shopping for the ones that cannot do it. They are the ones that worked under all circumstances during the pandemic where everyone had to stay inside. They are a vital part of our society and they deserve to be paid decently, and work in better conditions.

We, the workers, the students and the youth, need to embrace their demands and show our solidarity in their struggles, by supporting their actions so that they know they are not alone.

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