Gig Economy Project – As Getir’s empire rapidly shrinks, workers plot a global strike

The Turkish grocery delivery platform’s problems are generating steep lay-offs and deteriorating working conditions for those who remain, pushing workers to get organised internationally.

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Picture by Donald Trung Quoc Don (Chữ Hán: 徵國單)

IN the space of three months, Getir, by far Europe’s largest grocery delivery platform, has exited France, Spain, Italy and Portugal, and announced major job cuts worldwide to its 23,000 strong workforce.

Getir’s statement on Tuesday [22 August], that it was cutting around 2,500 jobs across the five countries in which it still exists – Turkey, the Netherlands, Germany, the UK, and the United States – could be understating its problems.

Reports from the UK and Germany suggest the company is encountering serious cash flow difficulties, with suppliers going unpaid, various perishable goods being unavailable on the app and equipment being auctioned off. 

However, the company doesn’t appear to be on the brink. Getir raised $500 million in April and one of its chief investors, Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund Mubadala, has said it is working on a new funding round. Nonetheless, there are clear signs that it’s empire might be crumbling.

The rise and fall

Getir is the oldest of Europe’s grocery delivery platforms, launching in Turkey in 2015. The company spent years perfecting its model in its home market, and claims to be profitable there. 

Like the rest of the ‘Quick-commerce’ sector, the pandemic was the trigger for a massive, rapid growth, raising $1.8 billion from a number of major investors and expanding to almost all of Europe’s main markets, as well as the US. By March 2022 the company was valued at $12 billion.

But Getir was sailing into a storm. While it’s huge funding meant it was better capitalised than any of its competitors, demand was shrinking as the pandemic eased. With rising inflation and interest rates, it suddenly became prohibitively expensive for investors to throw cash at speculative tech investments. With the venture capital tap turned off, Getir’s ‘growth-before-profits’ strategy – seeking to defeat competitors through subsidising deliveries, before pursuing profits once markets are dominated – quickly became unsustainable.

In May 2022, the company announced its first global lay-offs, axing 14% of its workforce, which at that point equated to around 4,500 workers, due to “the deterioration of the macroeconomic outlook”. The company claimed at the time that it was committed to all nine of the markets it still operated in.

READ MORE – Analysis: Is the party over for food and grocery delivery platforms?

By December, one of Getir’s main competitors, the German-founded Gorillas, had burnt through all its cash and was rapidly heading towards bankruptcy. Getir negotiated a deal to buy the firm for $1.25 billion in shares. As other rivals collapsed from lack of funding and falling demand, it seemed like Getir would dominate the market as the last grocery delivery app standing. But there’s no use being king of a market if there is no demand.

Last week, the Getir Workers’ Collective leaked a message on X (Twitter) from a Getir franchise owner in Berlin. “Getir and Gorillas are currently very surprisingly not in demand throughout Germany,” the message reads. “We didn’t even get half of our normal orders…It’s currently an unknown situation for Getir.”

Ronnie*, a former Getir rider in Berlin who’s contract was terminated in July 2021 but remains an active member of the Getir Workers’ Collective, reams off a long-list of reasons why he believes the firm is struggling so much in Europe’s most populous country. 

He says the company still faces tough competition from German-founded Flink, which has strong backing from REWE, a major German supermarket chain, meaning they don’t face the same issues with suppliers as Getir does. Also, the price of goods on the app is now much higher than in the supermarket, while product quality is often lower. But most of all, he believes the commitment to super-fast delivery is Getir’s biggest problem.

“To deliver very fast you need many workers,” Ronnie, who is an Indian migrant, explains. “At Getir’s peak, one dark store would have 20 riders operating over an 8-hour shift. And we all have to be paid, because we are human beings after all. They forget about that human side.”

What happens to the workers?

When Getir first entered the German market in 2021, it was desperate to get riders into the company. 

“At the time, workers were striking at Gorillas and got fired,” Ronnie says. “Getir used this to get the best riders from Gorillas. They did this through a sign-up bonus, it was as high as €250. 

“But from the second month I’d already began to get less hours than I should in my payslip.”

Ronnie claims that unpaid wages and benefits, which the Gig Economy Project reported on at Gorillas in Berlin before Getir’s takeover last December, is a major problem. Many workers have taken cases to court over the past three years, alleging unpaid holiday leave, unpaid bonuses and unpaid severance pay. 

Now that the company is looking to reduce its workforce, Ronnie believes that Getir is cutting hours without actually making workers redundant, to avoid the associated costs which come with redundancy. In the leaked message, the Getir franchise owner says that “some will no longer get their hours”, but does not state that they will be made redundant. 

“I don’t believe Getir’s statement that it is cutting 2,500 jobs worldwide,” Ronnie says. “It will be many more once you include those who are pressured to resign.”

“They can pressurise workers to resign in different ways. For example, transferring them to a warehouse that is an hour and a half away from where they live.

“Many don’t want to go through the court process because they don’t get paid in the mean time, so they quit because they need a job that pays,” he says.

READ MORE – Gorillas in Berlin: chronic problems and mounting divisions

Another report in the German daily Junge Welt last week alleges that one of the company’s sub-contractors in Berlin, Fast/Furious/Food GmbH, are “illegally sending employees home overnight without pay” when they have no work for them.

Ronnie believes that Getir is targeting e-bike riders for lay-offs because they “only want moped riders” due to mopeds being faster and able to go longer distances and carry more groceries. 

“In Turkey they only use moped riders,” Ronnie explains.

Getir did not respond to a request for comment about these claims.

What can workers do to defend themselves? Ronnie admits that most are looking to get a new job, although that is becoming increasingly difficult because “it’s really hard to get any jobs right now”. 

The Getir Workers’ Collective (GWC) is calling on Germany’s Labour Minister Hubertus Heil to intervene due to the large number of cases that are going to the labour courts.

“We want the government to consider these companies as habitual offenders of workers’ rights, because they are making a mockery of the judicial system,” Ronnie says.

GWC is helping workers to file court cases, although they have little faith that will lead to justice being done. 

With the announcement of the global job cuts, Ronnie has been in contact with Getir workers in other countries who want to do something. They have set-up a contact form for Getir and Gorillas’ workers anywhere in the world who have had their contracts terminated or experienced workers’ rights violations. 

“We would like to organise a global strike,” Ronnie says. “We want the workers who are still at Getir to know: ‘Hey, this will happen to you soon’.”

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