Organising couriers in Israel

Submitted by AWL on 2 March, 2021 - 7:10
McDonald's in Israel

Uri Metuki spoke to Michael Elms of Solidarity about couriers in Israel fighting for rights of union organisation. Uri leads the “youth and students” section of the Histadrut organising effort.

JustEat/10bis employs 1,700 couriers. The other company is called Wolt, which is a spurious self-employment company. We have some couriers who approached us from Wolt, we started talking with them and finding out about the situation, but the organising drive took off with JustEat/10bis.

We have more than half the workforce, but they did not recognise the union. They used all kind of union-busting techniques. We went to court, and a long trial is in process.

On the first day of our efforts going public, managers summoned the head of the workers’ committee for a hearing, and threatened them with termination. In Israel, it is against the law for employers to discourage unionisation.

But 10bis are using the middle management, not the highest level, to tell riders not to join in, or to cancel their union membership if they have joined. They are using a big organisation with a lot of American and Republican money to bring American union-busting to Israel. They have set up a company union, which is also against the law in Israel.

The workers are mostly young, in their early 20s, up to late 20s. Especially because of Covid, now there are some older people, in their 40s. Mostly the workers are Israelis, who grew up here. Some are Arabs, about 20%.

Shifts are issued to workers each week. There is a lot of turnover in the workforce, people work for a few months and then go. That’s a problem for us union organisers. In October we’d got 700 sign-ups, but shortly after we knew that 300 were no longer working there.

Workers get paid about 50 shekels an hour, which is 40% above minimum wage. But social security and other benefits are paid at the level of the minimum wage — which is illegal.

90% of workers use their own vehicles: scooters, motorcycles, electric bicycles. They don’t get insurance, and they get injured quite a lot. Just last week a worker died in an accident. Riders held a big demonstration of workers from both 10bis and Wolt, wearing black ribbons.

Fallback national insurance pays out if you are injured. But if you hit someone else, you are not covered.

The only company operating with a full-on gig economy basis is Wolt. Uber have been trying to get in but they have been blocked politically, mainly by the taxi drivers, who are well-organised.

There is a collective lawsuit by Wolt workers against Wolt, to say that they are actually employees and Wolt have to pay social benefits.

It would be good to have the company taking over the running of the vehicles. We have collective agreements with Pizza Hut and another company — the workers don’t bring their own vehicles, they get them on expenses from the company.

We also want minimum hours. These workers are all on zero-hour contracts. Management needs to guarantee minimum shifts and hours for every worker.

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