The spread of corona virus and the introduction of a state of emergency in Serbia have significantly reduced the scope of economic activity. However, it is quite clear to that there are workers who are compelled to perform their jobs throughout the pandemic; in some cases very demanding, such as health workers.
The danger is shared by the less visible workers – such as the app delivery workers, whose services are used by many residents of big cities in need for basic supplies, hygiene, disinfectants or food. While some can prevent exposing themselves to infection by shopping for groceries, their privilege translates into work effort and risk for others.
Dear Glovo, we are your heroes on the streets, who will not be prevented from doing their jobs and earning both your profit and our salaries neither by fear of corona virus nor of the apocalypse.
This is the introduction to one of the texts published on the Belgrade Glover Club (Klub glovera Beograd) website. By sharing their demands and experience on the website they started a fight for better working conditions and better wages.
Most Glovo delivery workers don’t refuse to drive regardless of the danger from the virus. However, as the situation aggravates, they rightly demand to be adequately paid for their work. In one of the last articles published on their site, the author wondered:
How much does everyone need to work by the end of this week? Who benefits from it the most? Why are we necessary? What do we provide and how much do we get?
“We build ourselves into Glovo’s growth, and it would be fair for our voice to be heard in the decision-making processes”
The people who make deliveries for Glovo are not employees of that company, but are hired through intermediary agencies or registered as entrepreneurs. Not having employment contracts, or any other type of written agreement with Glovo, creates much difficulty for the drivers in regulating labour rights.
The basic objections that the Glovers, as they call themselves, point out consider the changes in payroll and bonus calculation formula, which they refer to as “scandalous”.
Namely, according to the documentation we had access to, at the end of January. Glovo has started paying 60 instead of 80 Serbian dinars for the drop (the fixed start fee), while the fee for “waiting for delivery” dropped from 5 to 3 RSD per minute.
Bonus calculation is also very important for delivery drivers, because they use it to cover for the cost of gasoline, vehicle maintenance, equipment and the like. According to their calculations, a bonus of at least 100 dinars per delivery is the minimum sum needed to make the delivery feasible after all the expenses are covered.
However, one of the above mentioned changes was to lift the number of deliveries per week, required for the 100 RSD bonus, from 21 to 90. The delivery workers’ experience suggests that a person aspiring to make that many drives would need to work at least 10-12 hours daily, six days a week.
An article explaining these changes states that this is “extremely exhausting and unhealthy for people doing deliveries for Glovo”.
Glovo indirectly forces delivery workers to self-exploit and to violate the law in order to make end meet, an anonymous deliveryman writes.
Asked by a reporter of Mašina what Glovo should do to improve the working conditions, a delivery driver who wished to remain anonymous said that it was important to reduce the number of deliveries needed to earn the bonus:
Now it is necessary to work 12 hours 6 days a week to achieve the bonus, which creates tension and threatens the safety of the delivery drivers in traffic. An average delivery will spent many hours on the job. A job in which you used to be able to chose when and how long you wanted to work turned into one requiring you to toil away 12 hours daily. No private life, no vacation, a Glovo delivery driver says.
On the site they launched, the Glovers also complain about the inadequate map application used for ordering and delivering, as well as the “support” system which, according to the site, is inadequate and slow, probably since it is not even located in Belgrade.
One of the site’s initiators, who wanted to remain anonymous, told Mašina’s reporter that the launching of the site was motivated by the “dissatisfaction of the majority of colleagues with their working conditions and the wish to fight together”.
Secondarily, we initiated the site to facilitate mutual help in work and socializing. We also want to educate potential newcomers to the job and show them the reality of working for Glovo. By reducing the number of new people willing to work for Glovo, our value would increase, and Glovo would start thinking a little bit about whether or not to step all over someone. Glovo would also have to give up a part of its profits for the benefit of the workers who make that money for them in the first place, a delivery worker says.
Glovo in Serbia
The Glovo company has been active in Serbia since the middle of last year. Glovo works as an application through which you can order various products, unlike other applications through which you can only order food. This application represents a mediator in a chain of distribution, between sellers, customers and suppliers with whom Glovo has no firm connection, but sees them all only as users of the application.
As Mašina already wrote, this innovative business model, as it’s often presented, is in fact only a technical advancement used for the exploitation of workers within existing laws, which aren’t sufficiently accommodated to technological development.
The Glovo application can be used in Serbia, Belgrade, Novi Sad and Pančevo for now. Although the representative office of the company is registered in Serbia, and the regional centre is located in Zagreb, representatives of Glovo are not easy to reach. As earlier, we haven’t received the answers to the questions we have asked them before this text was authorized for publishing.
Update: We received an answer from Glovo after all, a few days later. They state that their goal is to assume a positive role in this “socio-economic moment for the society”:
Growth of our company generates growth for all our associates. Thus, we respect all of our delivery workers in full, by transparently showing the modalities by which they will be able to earn, with no hidden costs, to avoid misunderstandings at any time.
Glovo also claims that the delivery workers were called to participate in a meeting in late January. It was held to jointly discuss the abovementioned changes. Accodring to Glovo, the delivery workers agreed with the changes at the time.
However, one of the Glovo delivery workers Mašina talked to claims otherwise:
The meeting was regular. More than thirty of us attended, which was a surprise for Glovo. We weren’t as full of understanding as they claim we were, and we later expressed our views on the matter at the web site we made.
Translation from Serbian: Iskra Krstić
This article was originally published in Serbian on Mar 20, 2020.