Platform delivery workers in Ukraine, many of them displaced from their homes, are demanding decent wages as they continue to work in the midst of war.
On May 12, delivery drivers in Lviv went to Bolt Food’s headquarters to deliver their suggestions and seek an open dialogue with the company. Participants dressed to conceal their identities because they say the company has punished workers in the past with “robo-firings” and “robo-suspensions” by excluding them from the app.
Many of the delivery riders in Lviv have fled cities impacted by the war in Ukraine. In several cases, they are homeless or the only breadwinners left for their families.
In a video produced by Ukraine’s Labor Initiatives, workers describe their situations.
“I am from Mykolaiv,” says one worker. “Mom and Dad lost their jobs there. I don’t have a place to live here and I don’t even have enough money to eat. Bolt … said they would support favorable conditions. Both for themselves and for couriers. But they simply did not warn anyone, removed the minimum pay, lowered all the ratios.”
“How are the IDPs supposed to live,” he asks, “who have no housing, no work [and] don’t have anything to eat?”
Another worker describes the deterioration in pay. “They took away the minimum payment for delivery. And the ratios were reduced by almost half. Here a colleague has calculated that it, approximately, will give a reduction of wages by 52 percent.”
Workers said the company has failed to explain the reasons for the changes. Meanwhile, workers who rely on cars and motorcycles and have to keep their vehicles fueled in order to work face rising gas prices.
“Fuel is among my expenses,” said one worker. “Now I don’t know if I can even pay for it.”
The demands of these workers clearly show that platform-based companies abuse worker rights in extreme environments using the technology the companies have set up to maximize profits.
Delivery companies are “not regulated properly,” one delivery rider said. “Each service acts as they want. Some platforms employ people as ‘private entrepreneurs,’ some just saying ‘You are plugged into the platform” and you should be grateful for it. Because of that, many issues arise.
“And if after all this,” he continued, “some trade unions … will be formed, that will be great. People should have the instrument to solve the issues. Strange as it may sound, that may even be worth their lives.”
Nabil El-Moumni, a Tunisian disability rights advocate and blind receptionist at the local hospital of Mareth, Gabes, advocated–and won–important changes at his workplace to accommodate both workers and patients with disabilities. At his urging, the hospital installed an access ramp and prepared illustrated signs to help people who cannot hear or speak access the hospital’s various departments.
“They can have access to that department’s services independently, without the help of strangers,” El-Moumni says in a new documentary, “We Are All Different,” on the experience of workers with disabilities in Tunisia produced by the UGTT (Tunisian General Labor Union) and the Solidarity Center.
“I am blind, and I want more independence in my work,” he says. “The phone numbers I work with are registered in numerical support. I read via text-to-speech. I prepared papers in large format.”
El-Moumni’s support for worker rights initially cost him his job. “After that,” he says, “I started a general strike in front of Gabe’s governorate.” He was reinstated on January 13, 2016.
A diverse group of workers with disabilities, from gardeners and street cleaners to municipal employees and athletic competitors, share their experience with discrimination and the barriers they face in the workplace, in their communities and in accessing government services and jobs due to accessibility limitations—both in public buildings and transportation.
Many also speak of the satisfaction they experience in their work, and the gains workers with disabilities have made in receiving protections and accommodations, and being empowered to advocate for their needs.
Kalthoum Barkallah, Solidarity Center acting country program director for North Africa, says the documentary “sheds light on the reality of persons with disabilities in order to build general public awareness and push public authorities, civil society and partners to take up their issues and defend their rights.”
The film debuted on International Day of Persons with Disabilities, December 3, 2021.
As a migrant mine worker from Swaziland, Mduduzi Thabethe says he has fewer workplace rights than his South African co-workers. Although all mine workers pay the same amount into the health fund, migrant workers get inferior care and pensions are rare.
“If you are a citizen of South Africa, you see you are building your country and you have something, but we have nothing.”
Although media and policymakers focus on African migrants to Europe, some 80 percent of African migrant workers remain on the continent.
Thabethe’s union, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, is among those working to improve conditions for migrant workers.
When Joe Montisetse came to South Africa from Botswana to work in gold mines in the early 1980s, he saw a black pool of water deep in a mine that signified deadly methane. Yet after he brought up the issue to supervisors, they insisted he continue working, but Montisetse refused.
Two co-workers were killed a few hours later when the methane exploded.
Today, Montisete is newly elected president of the National Union of Mineworkers, a position he achieved after helping form a local union at the gold mine soon after his co-workers’ deaths. After they formed the union, workers were safer, he says.
“We formed union as mine workers to defend against oppression and exploitation.”
I am Marie Constant, I am from Madagascar. I have worked as a domestic worker in Lebanon since 1997. I work for one person only. The work is difficult, especially when we receive guests as we don’t have choice but stay up late working until the guests leave which is usually around midnight or sometimes around 1 a.m.
In general, the domestic workers don’t have a choice as they need to work from morning until evening with no specific break time and no holidays. And because of these rights abuse, we decided to form a union to defend our rights. Also, the fact that most domestic workers don’t have the right to weekly leave, we try to reach out to all the domestic workers women in most of the regions to educate them about their rights.