Openhearted protest-interview: rider gravely injured after traffic crash due to Gorillas bike brake malfunction
On December 12, our colleague Mustapha got in a traffic accident caused by a malfunctioning bike, while working for Gorillas. He is physically injured and still very shaken from the accident, and because of this still cannot work. He needs time and rest to recover, which he isn’t getting in the current situation.
We want Gorillas to take responsibility, and to not also cause him to be in severe financial trouble. We demand:
- Pay Mustapha at 100%, no wage penalty.
- Keep Mustapha employed until he has recovered, offer job security.
- Monetary compensation for pain suffered, physically and mentally.
Your solidarity is needed
Mustapha is not the first and will not be the last to crash. By all standing together in solidarity, we are not only supporting a colleague, but we are also protesting how the companies are using us all as cannon fodder. Make your protest heard and send a message to the responsible Gorilla managers.
How have you been doing since the accident, Mustapha?
I am very tired and in a lot of pain. I often struggle to sleep, if I can at all. I have nightmares and heart palpitations in the middle of the night. It was very frightening to have the bike move all by itself and to lose all control. Again and again I see the car coming towards me. I’m also anxious in traffic… especially when cycling. I’m from Amsterdam, a bicycle courier, I need a bike! It is clear to me that I have suffered trauma, which I will be going to a psychologist for. My body shakes and jerks all day long. Strong painkillers dimmed the pain a bit, but I am still severely hindered by it; even though as a martial artist I have certainly learned to take a hit. The accident will soon cause major financial problems, which is causing me a lot of stress.
It sounds like a pretty severe accident.
I ride the cargo bike. They are often (too) heavily loaded, and they have a very strong engine. On the way to my next customer, I crossed the Jan van Galenstraat next to the metro stop. This is a very busy street, where people often drive very fast. I tried to stop for the red light, but the bike motor started up spontaneously . Panicking, I tried to brake… but they failed.
The bike threw you on the road, through a red light? Do the bicycles fail often?
It happens much more often with the normal bikes, which break down almost daily. But I have also experienced it several times as a cargo cyclist: an engine that starts running on its own and brakes that fail. It’s a much-discussed problem at the warehouse. I always report defects in bicycles, and I put defective bikes away.
I understand you have pain in your ankle, knee, leg, lower and upper back, and neck?
I landed on my feet at high speed. I managed to stay upright, but my body turned and kept moving. The pain came quickly and was instantly very bad and I knew: this is wrong. I sat down on the sidewalk and a little later you came by.
You sat there miserable, looking like you were in a lot of pain, but your phone kept ringing.
We are often called on our private number by customers while we are on the road. which is ridiculously unsafe in and of itself, but Gorillas demands we allow this. On this ride, too, customers called to ask why I wasn’t there yet. Even after the accident, they kept calling. At one point I picked up the phone: ‘Lady, please, I have had a traffic accident, I’m in pain. I don’t know when I’ll be there, perhaps someone else will bring your stuff in a few minutes. Please be patient. She picked up her stuff within minutes; she found me through GPS tracking.
A manager appeared, and everything turned out fine.
He suggested pretending that the accident had never happened, and wanted to make an agreement with me about it. Nothing to worry about. But if the accident caused long term injuries, I wouldn’t be able to get any compensation, because it would never have happened at all, officially. At my firm insistence, we agreed to call in and report the damage. Because of my miserable state, we agreed that he would handle all the formalities.
Our other colleague, “M” has finally recovered from her traffic accident. Her steering wheel jammed.
M was at home for three weeks with an injured knee. Terrible for her. I’m glad she’s better. We riders often crash, rarely because of our own mistake.
A manager says that we spread misinformation, that you drove through the red light on purpose; and that the brakes were fine.
I think it is dangerous when someone who was not there makes such statements. He can’t know, but he does call me a liar. The people who were there, including the driver who hit me, all endorse my story. And they are willing to put that on paper. The driver also tested the bike. The brakes didn’t work for him, either.
The managers find their supervisor role very important. An accident like this is bad for their image, so they don’t want them to happen during their shifts. On the other hand: often half or more of the bikes are broken. Broken bikes often end up upstairs anyway and are used again. They say: we don’t force anyone. Nice and easy. Where is the responsibility.
Above all, they want their job to remain intact. On their computers they stare at their statistics with performance figures of the warehouse. Those must not go down. That’s important to them. Safety comes after that. So what is the misinformation here I ask.
We, your colleagues, are behind you, we know how dangerous those bikes are.
What are you particularly worried about now?
I worked like a beast at Gorillas. Each month I worked enough to earn €2400,-. I have now lost 40% of my income. Here’s the thing: I worked for Gorillas for 9 weeks. They calculate sick pay over the average of the last 13 weeks. I get 90% of that. So you end up with 60%. I really need my full income though, especially now. But like this I am punished instead of helped. With €1400,- I can’t meet my obligations and I get into big trouble.
The Radical Riders have rallied behind you, and you have joined us. The CEO of Gorillas NL, Joost Claessens, wanted to call you, we did that together. How did that go?
He offered me all the assistance and help and gave me the feeling that we would take care of it in a bit. He really thought it was that bad. He wanted to do everything he could to make sure I could recover. We talked to him about that, and we asked him very specific things. Points 1 and 2 of our requirements. [above & at the bottom of this interview – red]
The CEO gave us the email address of someone from the legal department, Mrs. Valerie Kleine. He said: write to her with what you think is reasonable and fair, then we will find a solution together. And we did that in a very neat e-mail.
Monday the 20th we got a response, not from Mrs. Kleine but from an Alexandra Parie, and it seemed as if I was emailing a completely different company than the one that I had previously spoken to. Gorillas’ answer was in a kind of upside-down world. They kept saying that I did not go back to the warehouse the day of the accident. She seemed to think that even though I felt like I was dying and could barely stand the best course of action was to first go back and fill in some forms, instead of seeking help. And as I said earlier, I had agreed with the manager that came to the scene that he would handle the paperwork. He apparently didn’t, and now Gorillas is using that against me.
Gorillas declined responsibility again, in their e-mail. The representative said that if I had a claim, to send it to her, she’d send it to the insurer, and they’d decide on it. But what do I have to do with their insurer? If the car that hit me is damaged, the owner will get money from the insurance. If a person is damaged, then the question is whether you get something for that yes or no.
This is a nice line in their answer. “The bikes are from renowned bicycle brands, and are supplied by respectable suppliers”.
It’s nonsense that they won’t believe either.
What are the things you need now?
They have to take responsibility.
- I want my financial situation to be covered. My income, as mentioned, is 60% of what it was. I want to get 100% again. That also fits with the responsibility of Gorillas, to me as their employee and as the party responsible for the bikes.
- I want certainty that when my temporary employment contract expires in January, I will not go back to unemployment benefits. I can’t apply or work right now, because I’m still technically employed by Gorillas. I need to recover. That is not possible if I do not pay my rent and end up on the streets, and I can’t earn money until I’m recovered. Gorillas can give me certainty by giving me a solid contract until I have recovered.
- I want monetary compensation for the pain I am in and the way my case has been handled thus far.
Send a protest message to the Gorillas leadership and show your solidarity❤️
Names of managers have been omitted.
This is not aimed at individual managers but at Gorillas.
The managers discussed are not representative of all managers at the warehouse.