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Georgian couriers vow to create ‘gig economy union’ following Glovo strike

18 May 2021
Scooters belonging to Glovo couriers parked at the protest site in Tbilisi. Photo: Tata Shoshiashvili/OC Media.

Couriers in Georgia from food delivery companies Glovo and Wolt have vowed to form a trade union for workers in the gig economy, following the latest strike by Glovo couriers.

On Tuesday, around 100 Glovo couriers gathered near the Sports Palace in Tbilisi demanding an end to frequent changes in working conditions and the return of the bonus system. 

Many of those gathered told OC Media that they had been blocked from the Glovo application after several hundred couriers went on strike a day earlier.

Several protests and strikes by food delivery drivers have taken place in Georgia in recent months, including a protest by Bolt Food couriers in March. Because of their employment status as ‘partners’ and not employees, workers for companies such as Glovo, Bolt, and Wolt do not enjoy labour protections guaranteed under Georgian labour legislation.

Bolt Food couriers protesting in Tbilisi on 24 March 2021. Photo: Shota Kincha/OC Media.

Lasha Shanidze, one of the protesters on Tuesday who has worked for Glovo for a year and a half, told OC Media that the latest strike was caused after the company unilaterally abolished reimbursement for the distance couriers travel to reach a restaurant or store.

Irakli, another Glovo courier who did not wish to give his surname, said that while fuel prices had increased during the pandemic, ‘instead of increasing the salaries of people working with applications, bonuses were abolished and a number of other problems were created’.

A common protest

Several couriers from food delivery company Wolt also joined Tuesday’s protest in solidarity with the Glovo couriers.

At the end of the demonstration, a statement was read aloud announcing that a trade union would be formed to serve workers for food delivery apps Glovo, Wolt, Bolt Food, and Elvis, as well as the Yandex and Bolt taxi services.

One of the couriers, Tornike Avsajanishvili, said the union would oppose the ‘partnership agreements’ under which they are employed.

‘Under the partnership agreements, the company does not commit to anything, can dismiss couriers without justifying their reason, and change tariffs without prior agreement — mainly reducing them’, he said.

Courier Tornike Avsajanishvili announcing details of their planned gig economy union. Photo: Tata Shoshiashvili/OC Media.

Avsajanishvili said that one of the main goals of the trade union would be to secure employment contracts for couriers with conditions such as health insurance, overtime and bad weather compensation, and paid holidays.

In a statement to OC Media, Glovo said that they had reached an agreement with the striking couriers to restore access to the Glovo app to those who had been blocked. 

‘The protest is over and the application will no longer work with delays’, they said.

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