The delivery riders who, rain or shine, rush about with our orders, risking their lives on badly maintained mopeds for the lowest wages, are a symbol of our time.
Just as many people who found themselves without jobs but had some money stashed away have opened fast-food joints, cafeterias and other such businesses, young people with no other job prospects, and older ones who have lost their jobs, have hit the saddle, becoming delivery riders and couriers.
Thursday’s strike by these workers on two wheels, and the fate of their demands, will show the extent to which our society remains trapped in desperate solutions and arbitrary practices, or whether we are coming to a point where even this precarious job might offer dignity and security.
The riders are asking for their employers to provide motorcycles and personal safety items (such as helmets, jackets, padding etc), they want the state to classify their work as “heavy and dangerous” (which will affect salaries and social security benefits), and they also want a collective work agreement.
It is well known that undeclared labor, extortion and arbitrary practices are rife in Greece’s delivery sector.
The riders’ demands show this – often they must provide their own vehicle and pay for its fuel and maintenance, while employers are indifferent to their safety. In December, the Labor Ministry issued a circular with instructions regarding the health and safety of delivery riders and couriers.
This positive step, however, will crash into reality – the fact that many employers will not be able to meet the challenge of higher costs stemming from maintaining safety regulations, from abiding by labor law and paying the new minimum wage.
The fact that acceptance of the riders’ demands will lead to dismissals or to people being forced to work without being registered does not mean that the demands are wrong.
All over the world, temporary and precarious work is spreading; in Greece the problem is more acute in terms of the quantity and quality of jobs on offer.
Perhaps the pressure for cheap labor will crush the delivery riders in their struggle for security and dignity, but the issue sheds light on the distortions in the economy’s gray areas.
That is why a real solution is needed, such as an increase in take-home wages from a decrease in workers’ cost to companies. The delivery riders are on the front line of a society in flux. They deserve our respect and our support.