Wolt Workers’ Group courier Rasmus Emil Hjorth speaks to the Gig Economy Project about how their campaign has revealed a larger problem with working conditions in football
The Gig Economy Project, led by Ben Wray, was initiated by BRAVE NEW EUROPE enabling us to provide analysis, updates, ideas, and reports from all across Europe on the Gig Economy. If you have information or ideas to share, please contact Ben on GEP@Braveneweurope.com.
This series of articles concerning the Gig Economy in Europe is made possible thanks to the generous support of the Andrew Wainwright Reform Trust.
COURIERS at Wolt in the Danish capital of Copenhagen are demanding that the country’s biggest football club, FC København, live up to its claims of ‘corporate social responsibility’ by pressuring the food delivery company to agree to sign a collective bargaining agreement.
The football club agreed to a partnership with Wolt in July which allows the company to deliver food to a specific part of the stadium, which also doubles up as Denmark’s national stadium during matches.
Speaking to the Gig Economy Project, Rasmus Emil Hjorth, a courier in the Wolt Workers’ Group, which is affiliated with the Danish trade union 3F, said that the aim of their campaign is not to end this partnership, but to ensure it respects workers’ rights.
“FC København is one of the biggest employers in the entertainment industry and has a corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy which is committed to the seven core conventions of the Independent Labour Organisation (ILO), one of which is the right of workers to organise,” Hjorth, who is also a FC København supporter and attends some matches, says.
“We wrote to the football club to ask them how their partnership with Wolt fits within these CSR principles, and received no response.”
Wolt, which was founded in Finland and was acquired by US food delivery company DoorDash at the turn of the year, hires its food delivery couriers on an independent contractor basis, meaning they have no access to employee rights like minimum wage, pension or holiday leave. The company has been in talks with 3F but has so far failed to agree to a collective bargaining agreement in Denmark.
Wolt has lost 23 court cases in the Northern European country over issues ranging from lack of tax compliance to insurance, and in its home nation of Finland a department of the Finnish Government found earlier this year that a Wolt rider should be considered an employee, not an independent contractor.
Hjorth says working conditions are worsening at Wolt as the inflation crisis intensifies.
“My base pay has fallen so low and it’s been like this for seven or eight months now, and with inflation rising as well, it’s getting really difficult.
“So when a football club do this deal with Wolt, on whose behalf are they doing it? Is this for the fans? Do they want to entrench poverty when they are buying tickets for football matches? I don’t think so.”
With no response to their letter, the Wolt Workers’ Group have turned to local football media to get their message out, including a popular FC København podcast and an article in the most widely read football magazine, ‘Tipsbadlet’.
In response to that article, FC København’s owners, Parken Sport & Entertainment (PSE), told Tipsbadlet: “We have a rule that our partners must comply with Danish rules and laws. But employer-employee relations for other companies are not something we interfere in. Those who handle it inside the Park are on a collective agreement, but we are not going to interfere in other companies’ employer-employee relations. That is not our job.”
Responding, Jacob Dahl Rendtorff, professor of management philosophy and business ethics at the Department of Society and Business at Roskilde University, told Tipsbadlet: “It’s a classic contradiction between something you say you do, and then you don’t do it anyway. After all, it undermines their strategy for social responsibility. If I were them, I would probably try to avoid that problem.
“There have just been lawsuits against Wolt, which have said that their business model was not acceptable. Couriers could not be seen as self-employed. I can understand if the fans react against it.”
Hjorth also argues that PSE’s statement that workers hired by the Park stadium “are on a collective agreement” is highly questionable, after the Wolt Workers’ Group attained a letter sent from the company in July to the 3F trade union stating that its collective agreement with a section of catering and cleaning staff at the stadium has been “waived”. Hjorth has made contact with these workers to build common solidarity among low-paid workers connected to the club.
“It’s clear to us this is no longer just an issue for us, but for other workers at this club. We want to make it clear that we believe this is a larger issue of working conditions at football.”
As the campaign began to win support from fans, the Wolt Workers’ Group decided to step up the pressure by bringing a big banner into the match. However, they were blocked from doing so by security, and Hjorth said he was targeted specifically.
“I was subject to a humiliating pat down, I had to take off my shoes, and they were making demeaning comments like ‘this is a lads game’ and ‘this is not a place for politics’.”
Such hostility has not put Hjorth off, who was inspired to start the campaign after attending a summer school for worker organisers in July organised by the International Transport Federation (ITF). He says that at that event he learnt about the value of putting big high-profile clients of food delivery companies under pressure.
“The Independent Workers’ of Great Britain (IWGB) told us about their Stuart Delivery strike in Sheffield, where they went and picketed outside Burger King to address the client’s responsibility in the chain of logistics. I think that’s really important, because nobody is innocent in this chain of logistics for poor working conditions.”
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