Wolt discriminates against and mistreats several categories of workers simultaneously, according to Reljanović

Mario Reljanović, an expert in labor law, with no uncertainty tells Mašina that Wolt is the de-facto employer for its couriers. By limiting the ways some couriers can use the app, they are discriminating against foreign workers and lowering the potential earnings of all of its couriers.

Speaking with couriers working for Wolt, Mašina discovered that foreign workers who started working for Wolt this year have been put in a disadvantaged position compared to local workers. However, by discriminating against foreign workers, Wolt is also negatively impacting the working rights and conditions of local workers.

Foreign workers, most commonly from India, are not able to see compensation details associated with various jobs on Wolt, nor can they pick which kinds of deliveries they want to accept. In this way, they are resigned to a salary that is lower than that of local workers. This is a practice that the staffing agencies of foreign workers agree to in working with Wolt. As a result, local couriers also lose potential earnings since Wolt can earn much more by exploiting its foreign workers.

Wolt did not respond to requests for comment by Mašina, but they did address the subject on N1 television and in essence did not deny the existence of such discriminatory practices.

 We asked an expert in labor law, the president of the Center for Dignified Work, Mario Reljanović, to comment on this case, who gave a clear answer to our first question – “of course Walt is the de facto employer”.

“If we examine legal precedent throughout Europe and the failed EU Directive on platform workers that you also wrote about, we can see that digital platforms have significant control over working conditions, the way work is assigned and performed, which, along with many other aspects of the relationship that is created between Wolt and the couriers, unequivocally indicates that the platform is the employer of the delivery person, no matter the type of formal contract that exists between them,” says Reljanović for Mašina.

Wolt’s practices are nothing new, adds Reljanović, as many companies hire temporary workers in this fashion in countries lacking adequate regulations.

“If the Law on Agency Employment is consistently applied (as it should and must be), several issues arise with Wolt’s practices. First, it certainly constitutes discrimination, which seems to me to be a unique case for the employer (employer-user, business partner, whatever) when it comes to the application of the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination). But also, Wolt here simultaneously mistreats several categories of workers in different ways but with the same goal – increasing profits” said Reljanović.

Wolt couriers protesting in Belgrade; Photo: Mašina

Two types of discrimination

As we have already said, by making changes to the application, i.e. by limiting its use to certain delivery people, Wolt puts foreign workers in a disadvantaged position, and precisely because of this increased exploitation, the company also reduces the earning potential of locals, who also become cheaper labor.

“There are two types of discrimination in this case,” asserts Reljanović for Mašina.

The first is, according to Reljanović, that work on the platform is not available to all workers under the same conditions, even though there is no rational and objective explanation as to why this is the case.

“Local workers are also discriminated against when they are not provided the same opportunities as foreign workers. For example, this can also occur when local workers are classified as partners of Wolt, even though they might also have some other legal or illegal, contractual relationship with the platform” Reljanović states.

This of course does not mean that foreign workers are at an advantage.

“On the contrary, they are discriminated against because the app is designed so that they perform more work for less money than other users of the platform. This practice is structured around a specific labor law associated with staffing agencies and has nothing to do with the citizenship of foreign workers. As such, the same thing would happen to local workers if they agreed to work through an agency. Ultimately, this leads to foreign workers being paid less for more work, which is illegal on several grounds. This is a truly fantastic case of multi-level discrimination that I have not seen so far, even in countries that are completely unregulated in terms platform work” Reljanović highlights.

Reljanović emphasizes that when it comes to legal remedies, the Law on the Prohibition of Discrimination can absolutely be applied to both types of workers, which prescribes two essential mechanisms: addressing the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality and initiating litigation regarding discrimination.



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