‘We are employees like anyone else’. Polish delivery workers raise their heads

Recently in Poland, there have been major protests organised by GLOVO’s platform workers. Delivery workers, among others in Grudziadz and Poznan, have been organising strikes and pickets, as well as forming grassroots protest committees. On 21 March, they a letter of demands addressed to the headquarters of the company’s Polish branch in Poznań. – We had to unite and act to be heard. Our strike is an endeavour we undertook for this purpose – they wrote.

We are working people, we are couriers, we are a fundamental part of the whole process of GLOVO’s online platform, and it cannot be that the company does not hear us, that it ignores our problems and requests, that we are used as a silent workforce driving corporate interests. We are human beings, and we demand a humane attitude towards us! In this letter, we convey to GLOVO representatives our position, demands, and wishes regarding working conditions and pay for couriers – the protesting couriers wrote to GLOVO headquarters.

The protesters signal that the company, instead of seeking dialogue with them, apparently takes up repression, by banning workers who participate in protests from the GLOVO app. Corporate employees, however, reject these accusations, claiming that only people who had broken the terms of their cooperation with the platform are now banned.

We do not really know why these particular workers were removed, but it seems to be a form of repression, it is about their participation in the protests. After all, the company does not write a justification for such removal. In fact, it is almost impossible to get in touch with the company, and when the ban happens, we find out that supposedly these workers behaved rudely towards other contractors of the company – I heard from workers from Grudziądz and Poznań whom I interviewed.

On 19 March, the Europarliament’s Committee on Employment and Social Affairs approved a political agreement on a new draft law aimed at improving the working conditions of people working via online platforms.

With this, the EU institutions started work on a new legislative initiative relating to the civilisation of working conditions on courier or taxi platforms and applications. The new rules, agreed by the Parliament and the Council in February, aim to ensure the correct classification of the employment status of platform workers and to fight bogus self-employment. They also regulate, for the first time in the EU, the use of algorithmic management and artificial intelligence in the workplace.

Work on this initiative has been going on for years. The person behind the draft law, left-wing MEP and member of the Left Group in the European Parliament, Leila Chaibi, told us: the legislative process for the Platforms Directive started almost five years ago and was a long process. On the one hand, there was a compelling lobby in Brussels, especially the Uber lobby with some countries as allies. […] On the other hand, the workers themselves and the progressive forces in the European Parliament were involved in this balance of power throughout the legislative process.

Surveillance capitalism at work 

The company is now reducing the multipliers for orders accepted by delivery workers, which means that we are earning less. What are multipliers? They are conversion factors that decide on the final value of a particular order, like order acceptance, kilometres, weather. Each of these factors has a conversion factor. For example, an order can have an initial charge of 2.70, then a charge per kilometre, for bad weather, plus a multiplier – and only in the end the final value is calculated.

It used to be that in Grudziadz, if you had an order inside Strzemięcin area including a stop at a pizzeria to pick food, the fare was 17 zlotys. Nowadays, you will go for 11 zlotys. I am not talking about such inventions as the ‘double course’, where you drive, for example, 5 kilometres. and the whole thing is worth 8.20. The worker has to get there to collect the goods, unpack and pack them, and then deliver them to one customer and another, earning 8 zlotys in the process. If there are traffic jams, it’s maybe 16 zlotys. In such conditions, making more than two orders per hour is out of the question, says a courier working for GLOVO in an interview.

These multipliers are set top-down by the company, without any reasons being given. Orders’ values just fall. This is now a nationwide phenomenon, he concludes.

Do changes due to, for example, bad weather or traffic jams affect the end customers, i.e. those ordering the goods? Yes, extra money is assigned for working under bad weather, but at most 30% of this increase goes to the delivery worker, the company takes the rest. However, in terms of the wider phenomenon, in the current period the company is increasing prices per order rather than decreasing, with a reduction in the multipliers at our end, the courier states. In the end, the price depends on the number of couriers available. If it is smaller, then the higher becomes the price of the order, weather conditions, as well as other factors we do not know about.

The company believes the pay cuts are due to a lesser number of orders, as the spring period begins, meaning a drop in numbers of orders of food. This is normal for the job, which is thoroughly seasonal, but at the same time the company is recruiting for courier positions. So what is it really like? — ask the delivery workers, suggesting that the recruitment in Grudziadz and Poznan may be a part of putting pressure on the workers, as a reaction to recent protests.

Furthermore, the company banned four delivery workers’ accounts and others were downgraded. All this after protests. After all, as we know so well in the app, if you don’t drive, you don’t earn. In addition, if you have a lower rating, you can’t choose your driving. You are forced to adjust the working hours to the company, the couriers say in an interview.

If a delivery worker signs up for GLOVO, the company promises a certain earning level. A figure of around 35 zloty gross per hour is often mentioned here. However, all the equipment – backpack, jacket, car or other vehicle – and the care of it falls on the couriers. The workers write more about their working conditions in a letter dated 21 March. Currently, the average earnings of a GLOVO delivery worker per hour in Poznań are approx. PLN 30 gross per hour. With a normal working schedule, i.e. 5 days a week with 8 hours of work each, the income from the application will be 4800 PLN gross. And this is where the problems begin. When employed through fleet partners, because of a contract of mandate, the amount of all necessary contributions and taxes is about PLN 2,000 for full-time employment. With cooperation in B2B format, the amounts of deductions are at a similar level. That is, from the PLN 4800 of revenue from the application, we would be left with a net amount of PLN 2800 after deductions, a significant part of which are still costs related to the operation of our private vehicles and fuel costs. 

The protesting workers then point out that many of them have to rent vehicles, electric bikes or scooters, an average cost of 250 PLN per week. Per month, this means an additional PLN 1,000 reduction out of a net income of PLN 2,800.

In the end, the delivery workers are left with approximately PLN 1800.  Can such remuneration for our hard work be considered decent? — they ask.

Who are the fleet partners in this platform puzzle? These are the intermediary companies between the delivery workers and GLOVO. This is where the contracted employment relationship most often comes into the game. In December, the idea of them taking 5 per cent of the couriers’ revenue came up.

After all, then the job would be completely unprofitable! And many of us treat courier work as a permanent job. Such steps and solutions are some kind of 19th century dictatorship! Our rebellion yesterday blocked the introduction of the aforementioned solution by the so-called fleet partners, today’s rebellion may win us more decent working conditions,” say the couriers proudly.

How to organise on a platform?

Each city has its guardian, for example GLOVO Warsaw, where we, the couriers, contact the company. The guardian is an employee of the corporation. Of course, this communication has had varying degrees of success, most typically bland. However, we have created our own communication channels so that the guardian does not know about our activities, says a delivery worker from one of the Polish cities.

The main driver for change is opposition to working conditions, its evaluation and the way how the company communicates with the workers. The result of such communication was an online meeting with the township supervisor, where we postulated various changes to the group. However, after three weeks we got no response, not even on such a trivial, technical issue as assigning one more delivery worker in our locality, the couriers add. After which they add: From meeting to meeting, exchanging numbers and contact details, we started to set up grassroots protest groups. After all, who if not us? There are now about twenty-thirty of us. Which, for the whole city, is almost half of all delivery workers.

But why the protests? We need to publicise this at last. Maybe someone will finally take an interest in our situation and influence the company, but also the law, which is full of loopholes. We are employees just like everyone else. We work on a contract basis. Although there is another stitch here, namely the car hire contract, from this goes most of the earnings. It is a solution that reduces taxes for the partners above. We are simply imposed such and not other conditions, it is within the car hire contract that our earnings that we drive out working as couriers are accounted for. However, the cars are ours, moreover, we pay the taxes ourselves, we settle individually, no one helps us with this, the couriers unanimously state.

The workers write more about the aforementioned form of settlement in their letter: We probably won’t be revealing any secrets if we mention the third method of settlement with the courier, the vehicle rental contract. In this case, the courier is only obliged to pay 8.5% tax. Obviously, this is the most popular type of contract for couriers. And why-it is not hard to understand. This choice is actually non-alternative. Because we are simply not in a position, with an income of PLN 4800 gross, to work on a contractual or B2B basis. Increasing working hours to 10-13 hours cannot be the normal solution to this problem. But many couriers work this way.

As they further add: We all want to work completely legally, in accordance with all the rules and regulations of the Polish state and the Labour Code. We believe that there should be a new employment and remuneration system for couriers with decent rates and all labour rights.

In their letter, the workers refer to recent developments from the European Parliament. We know that the EU Council has just approved the Directive on Working via Online Platforms, we hope that there will be some good moves on this soon. However, presently, the rates are catastrophically low, and the continuing trend to lower them is considered completely unacceptable. Therefore, while understanding the difficult economic situation of the GLOVO online platform, we demand that the multiplier in the city of Poznań is already a minimum of 1.7x during the warm months and much higher in winter. Without any other manipulation of the order payment system, as has been the case, for example, since 08.08.2022, when the rate per kilometre and the base rate per order were lowered in exchange for which the multiplier was raised, a parameter that is constantly changing. This is why our wages have been steadily falling over the last few years, despite the general inflation crisis, price increases and wage increases in all areas of work. Our demand is quite modest, because we understand all the economic difficulties of GLOVO, but we also encourage the understanding of the couriers.

However, as they then add: ‘From what we can currently see, once our protests started, GLOVO representatives immediately started the unscheduled recruitment and activation of new delivery workers. Is this an adequate and good way to solve the problem and treat the workers with dignity?

Spanish problems

Interestingly, GLOVO’s problems are not specific for Poland only. The company, founded in 2015 in Barcelona, also has difficulties in its home country. In January 2023, it was fined nearly €57 million for violating local labour laws by falsely classifying more than 7,800 couriers in Madrid as self-employed, according to local newspaper El Diario.

Citing sources from the Department of Labour, the newspaper reports that the fine breaks down into a €32.9 million fine for breaching labour laws; €19 million in unpaid social security contributions for drivers the company falsely claimed to be self-employed; and €5.2 million for visa violations, as inspectors found that GLOVO employed many foreigners without work permits. The fine is the latest in a series imposed on the Barcelona-based delivery platform, founded in 2015. The newspaper reports that the total fines amounted to more than €200 million.

All GLOVO’s problems began when, in 2020, Spain’s highest court dealt a major blow by ruling against the classification of drivers as self-employed. Then, in 2021, the country’s lawmakers agreed on a labour law reform aimed at forcing delivery platforms to employ couriers – the so-called Courier Law.

In addition, not all the fines related to breaches of labour relations regulations. On 7 March 2023, the Spanish data protection authority (AEPD) published its decision to impose a €550,000 fine on GLOVO for breaching the General Data Protection Regulation (RODO) following an investigation.

As a result of the investigation, the AEPD found that GLOVO failed to implement adequate security measures to prevent users of its delivery platform from accessing third-party user information, in breach of Article 32 of the DPA. The AEPD noted that although GLOVO had remedied the issue, there was no mechanism in place to restrict access until May 2020.

The AEPD also found that GLOVO allowed users to access datasets from other countries using the provider’s data. Accordingly, the AEPD found that GLOVO breached Article 25 of the RODO by failing to restrict access by default to the country of the relevant provider.

In line with the principle of gig economy delivery platforms, GLOVO has increased the use of a rapid urban delivery service of thousands of couriers that it did not classify as employees, thanks to the fact that labour relations legislation has not been able to match the pace of entrepreneurial ingenuity. However, this is slowly changing, as evidenced by Spanish legislation, but also the Europarliamentary initiative mentioned at the beginning of the article.


Not only the workers cannot easily contact the company. There is no contact on the platform’s website for the media, at most, there exists something for customers. We only managed to get the former by writing to the people working at GLOVO in Poznań via the LinkedIn platform. Our question was answered by the PR & Public Affairs Manager. Below are the questions we sent and the answers we received.

Why the sudden fall of current evaluation rate of the orders, is it due to a lower supply of orders?

Our priority is to maintain order continuity for couriers at a time of falling order demand, which we always face at the beginning of spring. This way, once the couriers have completed an order, they quickly receive the next one. To achieve this, we use a calendar that allows us to calculate exactly how many delivery workers we need for each hour, ensuring order continuity. At the same time, we would like to emphasise that our analysis indicates that average hourly rates in March 2024 are 12% higher for couriers providing services to GLOVO compared to the same period a year earlier. At the same time, the first, as yet unofficial, reports indicate that year-on-year inflation in Poland in March will be significantly less, at 2.5%.

If the supply of orders has decreased, why the new recruitments for the position of couriers in cities such as Poznan or Grudziadz — there have been protests in these cities recently, is this related to them or to the decrease in supply?

A significant proportion of those providing delivery services to platforms treat this occupation as a casual or temporary job. That is why it is so important for them to have flexibility and freedom to deliver their services. From the platform’s perspective, this means that we have to search for new people and conduct onboarding processes all the time, even though there is obviously less activity in this field with the summer approaching and the expected drop in orders at that time for all platforms.

Is the blocking of the accounts of some couriers involved in the demonstrations an example of repression of the protesters – as the protesters claim?

The deactivation of courier accounts involved only three protesters, who were aggressive towards other GLOVO employees and used bad language towards them. We are not blocking participation in the protests. We are open to all peaceful forms of dialogue with the delivery workers. However, the sense of security of the employees is of paramount importance to us.

Will there be negotiations with the couriers?

We are in constant contact with them. Even before the protest in Poznań, we met with representatives of the couriers and listened to their demands.

How do you address Glovo’s legal problems in some countries, including Spain?

The legal status of platform workers is still an unresolved issue in many countries. From the beginning of the debate on this issue, we have indicated our total willingness to maintain an open and constructive dialogue with the relevant institutions and authorities in Spain and all the countries in which we operate.

Does the company intend to change its hiring practices in line with the recent Europarliamentary vote?

We look forward to local implementations of Platform Work Directive in EU member states. We are open to working with the government, couriers and other platforms to create an optimal solution for all market players. At GLOVO, we already provide delivery workers with insurance and many additional benefits, free training, etc., as part of what we call the GLOVO Commitment, under which we enhance the comfort of couriers.

The legal reality of platform work and the EU directive 

As far as the legal status of platform workers is concerned, in Poland virtually all platform workers provide work based on civil law contracts (most often commission contracts, umowa zlecenie in Polish). As a rule, platforms do not conclude contracts directly with the persons providing the work, but use intermediaries, so-called fleet partners. It is the fleet partners, and not the platforms, that would bear possible liability in an audit situation. The use of commission contracts in itself is not strange (these contracts have actually been accepted by those in power as an alternative to employment contracts), if it were not for the fact that many platform workers settle their wages through additionally concluded rental contracts. In such contracts, the employees ‘rent their vehicles’ to platforms (or intermediaries/fleet partners) for a fee, and these platforms (intermediaries/fleet partners) then — for free — ‘lend them’ to the employees for the duration of their work, says Karol Muszyński, PhD in law, in an interview.

It is, he adds, a creative way to reduce taxes, as rental income is taxed lower than income from work. It is a very controversial solution legally, or rather, he points out, simply against the law. However, the tax authorities, Social Security and the Work Inspectorate are not willing to tackle the area of platform work due to the issue’s complexity and lack of political will. What’s more, as I have already mentioned, in the event of an audit, the fleet partner and the employee would be responsible, not the platform, concludes Muszyński.

On 11 March 2024, the Council of the EU adopted the negotiated shape of the Directive on the improvement of working conditions through platforms, which now needs to be approved by the Council and the European Parliament and then transposed into member states’ legislations within two years. This is a progressive and important regulation, which provides the basis for resolving the employment status of those providing work through platforms by introducing a presumption of labour employment by the platform, states Dominik Owczarek of the Institute of Public Affairs. If a platform wants to challenge a particular person’s employment — the burden of proof that it is dealing with an independent contractor will be on the platform and not on the employee.

Spain has introduced a presumption of an employment relationship, and couriers delivering food most often have to be employed by platforms on employment contracts. Proposals from the draft European Platform Work Directive are moving in a similar direction, adds Muszyński. The directive essentially envisages the introduction of a presumption of an employment relationship based on several criteria, which would mean that people providing work on platforms would be considered employees. This would lead to them being covered by many rights under the Labour Code and European employment standards regulations.

This is a desirable direction, although it raises some surprise in Poland. On Polish labour market, the use of civil law contracts (and self-employment on a B2B basis) is seen as a de facto alternative to the employment contract. If the Directive were to enter into force, Poland would have to introduce higher labour protection standards in the area of platform work than those operating in other sectors, where the conclusion of commission and B2B contracts in conditions virtually identical to the employment relationship is simply an accepted, normal state of affairs. However, this is because over the last 20 years we have allowed a destandardisation of the labour market that is unimaginable from the perspective of other European countries, states Muszyński.

Whether the directive — in its most important point, i.e. the regulation of employment status — will change anything in the Polish context depends on how it is transposed into Polish legislation. Thus, the matter is not yet a foregone conclusion, and the Directive can only provide an impetus to tidy up the broader problem of the excessive use of civil law contracts in Poland. If the Polish authorities care to introduce restrictions in this respect in the name of increasing the protection of employees, the directive will significantly improve the conditions of platform workers, give them the right to leave, including maternity leave, regulate working time, etc., says Owczarek. However, if there is no intention to limit the use of civil law contracts — the use of employment contracts for platform workers will continue to be a rarity, largely as a result of the goodwill of digital platforms.   

The press department of the Ministry of Labour, Family and Social Policy replied to us stating that: The Ministry has already undertaken preparatory work for the implementation of the aforementioned directive, including gathering information on solutions in other EU Member States regarding the presumption of an employment relationship. However, as we can hear from experts, but also from politicians, there is an inevitable conflict between the left-wing vision of the implementation of the directive and the deregulatory principles of liberal politicians who dominate the Donald Tusk government.

Cover photo source.

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