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Wolt and Bolt couriers go on strike in Azerbaijan

25 April 2022
Wolt delivery bags with messages about the working conditions for the company attached. Photo: Mahammad Artunov.

Dozens of couriers from delivery platform Wolt have gone on strike in Azerbaijan demanding higher pay, with couriers from rival company Bolt vowing to join them.

The strike began on Thursday, with around 100 drivers from Wolt boycotting the company and deactivating their mobile apps.

On Monday, a group of couriers from rival service Bolt Food announced that they would join the strike on Tuesday, also citing low pay.

A call to action among Wolt couriers was first published on a Facebook group for couriers in Azerbaijan on 21 April. 

‘You are psychologically broken and convinced that you do not matter, you are just a statistic, you are one of the hundreds of couriers. There are hundreds of you in line’, the message said.

The post ended with a vow to improve their working conditions.

‘Small snowflakes can create big snowballs’, it read.

Mahammad Artunov, a courier at Wolt, told OC Media that Wolt had ignored their continued pleas before the strike began.

He said that the level of pay per kilometre delivered had decreased from 1 April, from ₼1.90 ($1.10) to ₼1.60 ($0.94)

Artunov also noted that all of the costs that arose from the job, including for their vehicles, medical insurance, and telephone and internet data, were borne by the couriers themselves.

‘The pay set by the company for us under these conditions is very low; it’s impossible to live on this pay’, he added.

He said this created dangerous conditions for couriers due to the pressure to deliver faster.

Tofig Suleymanov, Wolt’s marketing manager in Azerbaijan, told Meydan TV that they had met with a group of couriers and listened to their complaints, and that the company would discuss what actions to take.

Wolt and Bolt, which are Finnish and Estonian companies, offer services delivering food and other merchandise to customers using freelance delivery drivers, excluding them from basic labour protections such as paid holidays, sick leave, and protection from unfair dismissal.

The strike is perhaps the first case of industrial action by employees in the gig economy in Azerbaijan.

In neighbouring Georgia, attempts have been made to form a trade union for gig economy workers following a string of strikes by couriers from the Glovo and Bolt companies.

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