Ömür Sönmez, Thuisbezorgd: overworked, underpaid, organising
I started in November 2020. Dinnerdelivery to home. The government had closed all culture. My freelance work was hit hard and so I had to cycle to pay the bills. If you start working at Thuisbezorgd you will experience something, I will tell you. In short: think a failed combination of action film and drama. Fortunately, there is resistance.
It was freezing in February. Do you remember? Siberian style, really extreme weather. We didn’t want to go onto the streets out of self-preservation. But we were forced. I had my umpteenth traffic accident. I crashed and my steering wheel smashed into my collarbone. Then I was pretty busted up and couldn’t even laugh anymore. Breathing was also difficult.
Home delivery also left me financially suffocated: I only received 70% of my wages ‘because I was sick’ and the first sick day’s wages were even completely gone. This is something many will recognize. Typical bicycle courier. While the traffic crash was at least partly caused by Thuisbezorgd. They actually shout ‘own risk!’ and walk away laughing.
My phone has been and is also permanently damaged since I work there. Because Thuisbezorgd just demands the right to use our private phone and data bundle for free during working hours. But the telephones regularly fall during work… while Thuisbezorgd refuses to arrange any sensible protection for it or pay for damage. For example, something as stupid as a good phone holder. Why do us workers have to arrange that ourselves?
Radical Riders sprouted at Thuisbezorgd
It was therefore in February that I first got together with two colleagues to organize the riders of Thuisbezorgd, the home delivery couriers. We quickly found contacts outside Amsterdam. How they treat our bodies and health is unacceptable. Our initiative evolved into Radical Riders in the summer.
Don’t think that all those things are imposed on us by actual flesh and blood managers. Everything is done by app. We very rarely see managers. Sometimes you just want to talk to them, if you want to discuss something with them or ask something. But that is impossible. They, meanwhile, only contact me if my working speed is below average in their metrics. If that happens I get a warning per app. I especially have that on days with long journeys, because home delivery charges you based on your number of journeys. They don’t care that we have to cycle far.
Profits, traffic accidents and illness at Thuisbezorgd
I recently had a collision with a car. That was one day when I was pestered all the time with messages of “You have to get your average time!”. Then I tried to make it and yes, it ended in a crash. Then I lay busted up for days again and could not work. Once again, Thuisbezorgd took my first day of pay away completely and paid 70% for the rest. They punish us for their own shitty policies.
They just want to take the maximum amount of money they can. At our expense. Jitse Groen, boss of Thuisbezorgd, is impossibly rich and now the boss of a gigantic multinational. We never see them, of course.
Keep the rider union initiative going, it’s our only chance
Now that I can go to work again, I will cycle less. But I’ll stay involved with the riders… because this initiative is a great opportunity to build something that will and can take the fight to the bosses. We have to try. I hope we can enforce better treatment for all couriers, but certainly at home delivery.
Wages have to go up. Minimum €15 per hour. Minimal. I want decent workplace facilities. I want working bikes, with everything on it a normal bike has: working brakes; lights front and rear; and well… just not a shit bike! Work breaks! I want breaks and decide for myself when to take them. During work we often wait, for example for the next order. Home delivery says: did you have a break right away? I could go on and on… we have a lot to gain, let’s get started!