Action at Gorillas HQ demands & gets direct negotiations
Compensation negotiations for hit Gorillas rider Mustapha were at an unstatisfactory impasse. The ultimatum issued by Radical Riders, demanding a resolution to the issue or accept direct negotiations from Gorillas, expired this morning, April 8. Gorillas had neither complied with our demands nor agreed to direct negotiations. 15 riders, Vloerwerkers and FNV members walked into the Gorillas headquarters this afternoon to demand direct negotiations, and now. An hour later the board was in a meetingroom sitting opposite us.
By Sjerp van Wouden
“Shit, that thing just broke down on me!” I am, in an office annex action room, fiddling with that one single action equipment that can’t really be missed today. We’re going to make a hell of a noise later, together. One takes with: a megaphone. pliew beep beep ploooooo. I’m late. The megaphone has just made its first and, as it turns out, its last sound. Concerned looks from present office comrades. The nerves were already getting to, a lot depends on this action. Our first real collective hard direct action at Gorillas. I throw the megaphone in a corner, trash, I own an analog personal-amplifier, lets see if it still works. But the action depends on whether colleagues would come. With placards in my left and a bag in my mouth I answered my phone with my right hand on the bike. I’m late.
Colleagues from Gorillas, Thuisbezorgd, Cyclone and self-employed deliverers are fortunately already waiting for me at the assembly point. Look at that, a good start. My colleague Mustapha too, of course, is there. Our FNV friends have gone the wrong way and are at the wrong address. We have to go in together at about the same time, otherwise the action will fail. Fingers crossed. We discuss the plan of action.
Gorillas think they can mess and toy with riders. They see us as weak, not least because of how differently thick our wallets are. We have a lesson for them today. The solidarity of riders from the Netherlands and Europe temporarily alleviated Mustapha’s most acute needs so that we have a bit of wiggle room. We can go in the struggle now. He still is bound to lose his house if we don’t win something big, quickly, though. Today we turn the table. Gorillas rents from WeWork and thinks the have a safe office behind the entrance turnstiles of WeWork, shielding them far from the trouble and poverty of the riders. In fact, one reason they moved from Berlin to Amsterdam was their hope of avoiding pesky unions like the German anarchist FAU.
We go inside. Tension peaks…. where’s the rest. As if we planned it, those lost or late are right suddendly appear at the right time and place. Fifteen people! To the reception. Are they playing ball, or will it be anti-climax? “We are here with this boy, he had a bad accident with Gorillas, and now he is in acute shit. We want to talk to our bosses about it.” Do you have an appointment? “Yes, the agreement [was Dutch wordplay – red] was that Gorillas would do everything to get him on top, but they refuse.” Not enough appointment. No. No. No?
I open my throat.
WE ARE THE PEOPLE THAT BRING YOU YOUR FOOD. YOU DON’T SEE US. WE GET TREATED LIKE SHIT. NOW WE ARE HERE AND I WILL TELL YOU HOW GORILLAS AND ALL RIDERS GET FUCKED OVER.
At ‘hello’, one of those sourgrape receptionists had already fled. I’m giving an impromptu speech about rider life. There’s be no more work at WeWork, it’ll be shut down, untill I shut up. And I will as soon as we speak to the bosses. So now WeWork has a problem. Let them call the police; more ruckus, we leave on time, and then we come back another day. In between the little speeches we sloganeer. More volume!
Within minutes, a director, or what should pass for it, is right in front of us. Saying that this can’t be done and if we would pretty please leave immediately. We demand a meeting with Gorillas and don’t leave, we go on screaming. We make it clear to the director that he is to arrange for us to speak with Gorillas. An organizer of the FNV knows how to prolong the conversation with the man. He’s pushing us to go outside and wait for the management of Gorillas. No, no, we’re pretty good here. Ok, but please stop making noise and sit down.
Less than fifteen minutes later we are let into WeWork as ‘guests’. We do enjoy ourselves in WeWork, having fun. A room has been reserved for us, and drinks arrive at the company’s expense. The board is on its way. We’ve turned the tables. Gorillas riders do dangerous work for just above minimum wage with equipment that’s more than once defective. But hey, not working is not eating and eventually losing your house. So riders take a lot, Gorillas knows that, and they abuse that power, from behind their neat WeWork reception desks, so that the misery of us poor suckers stays outside. We bring that misery to their home. We give them housing problems by pressuring WeWork, by loudly pouring our woes over their customers. The world turned upside down: Gorillas’ landlord has no interest in Gorillas internal conflicts, and thus puts pressure on the Gorillas management. Investors call this leveraging.
The management takes an hour to arrive. We joke that we have to be everywhere within 10 minutes, but our bosses can’t. Of course. When they are finally there they try to manage things with smooth talk and bullshit. “We’re a rider-centric company”, and they really care about us, blablabla. But that very day is the verdict in Germany on the lawfulness of Gorillas acting in the major strikes there. That broke Gorillas by, among other things, firing strikers en masse. Based on Nazi-era legislation, this appears to be ‘legal’. The German strikers are our comrades, we have not forgotten them. A Groningen comrade takes the floor. “Rider-centric? Ah, that’s why you fire riders who stand up for their rights? You’re a mockery.”
We can’t say much about the negotiations for reasons. Mustapha is an impressive human being. Pushed so far in the shit, got up, regained pride, strong. Cracked but not broken. Together we are strong.
Delivery companies would do well to respect their workers.
Because if we don’t get it, we’ll come and get it.