Delivery services Lieferando and Wolt: Modern technology, modern slaves?


As of: October 31, 2023 5:32 a.m

The food delivery business is booming, but the market is competitive. Full screen-Research shows: Lieferando apparently monitors its employees automatically, competitor Wolt relies on dubious subcontractors.

When Felix talks about his time at Lieferando, he still seems a little uncomfortable. This means he “no longer feels good” and the work “no longer feels right from a human point of view”. But now Felix wants to talk about his experiences at Lieferando. About what happens behind the scenes at the market leader in German food delivery services.

Felix actually has a different name. He wants to remain unrecognized so that he can speak openly. Until recently he worked in the Lieferando headquarters in Berlin in the team of so-called agents. His job was to look after drivers during their shift. Or as he says today, “to monitor.”

Automated Performance control?

The team of agents not only sees the exact location of the couriers. Employees would also be informed about any abnormalities in delivery operations via an automated system. “Everything that doesn’t work properly is displayed automatically,” says Felix. For example, if couriers exceed a specified time for a specific delivery route, this appears automatically on the agent’s screen, according to the insider.

In cases like these, Felix should write to the drivers via a chat system and ask what the reason for the delay was. “It is a monitoring to monitor the performance in order to keep the performance consistently high,” is the assessment of the former Lieferando employee. The guidelines of the system that informs agents about abnormalities are not always so strict. Nevertheless, in retrospect he assesses the practice as “too strong an intervention”: “In principle, you can say that it is possible to be breathing down the neck of every driver who doesn’t do what the company wants.”

Lieferando rejects allegations

There have already been allegations that Lieferando collects almost complete data from couriers, such as their location. But up to now Lieferando has always denied that it was illegally controlling the performance of the drivers. On Full screen-The company remains with the request. The driver app complies with applicable data protection regulations, it is said. Places and times are essential for the service to function properly. However, the data is not used for unauthorized performance or behavior monitoring and the drivers are informed about what it is being used for.

Full screen There are several messages that Lieferando couriers from different cities received from agents. They support the insider’s statements and show that the drivers and their performance are apparently being monitored very closely. The messages say something like: “Hi, do you need help finding the customer?” and “Hey, have you been able to deliver the order yet? I see that you’ve been with the customer for some time, do you need support?” (Note d. Editor: Error in the original).

Data protection officer: “Completely monitored employment relationship”

Based on the research, data protection expert Stefan Brink sees inadmissible monitoring of employees. “This is evidence that we are dealing with a completely monitored employment relationship,” said Brink. If the information is correct, it is a very clear performance control. “Such complete monitoring and working relationships are not legal.” Brink was the Baden-Württemberg state data protection officer until last year and had already worked on Lieferando and the driver app in this role.

One thing is clear: delivery services like Lieferando have an interest in ensuring that everything runs smoothly and that the couriers don’t dawdle. Because the market is competitive. This is also shown by a current study by the “Institute for Co-determination and Corporate Management” of the union-affiliated “Hans Böckler Foundation”. It comes to the conclusion that it is very difficult for delivery services to be profitable at all and that they depend significantly on capital infusions from investors. Low wages appear to be part of the business model, according to the makers of the study.

Presumptive Labor law violationI also eat at Wolt

They also show how precarious the working conditions are at competitor Wolt Full screen-Research. The delivery service is currently expanding its German business and is relying on subcontractors in some cities.

According to research, there is evidence of undeclared work in Wolt’s area. Drivers report a climate of fear, they are under constant pressure to perform, couriers are paid in cash and employed illegally.

In addition, a trial against Wolt is currently underway at the Berlin Labor Court. A young man from Pakistan, Muhammad, has sued the delivery service because he had not been paid for almost three months. He is entitled to more than 3,000 euros. “I feel betrayed as a migrant,” says Muhammad. And it’s not just him who is affected, in total there are more than 100 drivers who have not been paid. If that’s true, it would mean hundreds of thousands of euros in unpaid wages.

Berlin cell phone shop as a subcontractor?

At the end of 2022, Muhammad came across a job advertisement for Wolt couriers from a cell phone store in Berlin. There he filled out application forms and submitted documents, such as his tax ID and his residence certificate. After a few days, he received access to the Wolt partner app, a Wolt backpack and a Wolt jacket. “It seemed authentic,” Muhammad said. Screenshots from the app show that he delivered nearly 400 orders for Wolt through January 2023 and was in regular contact with Wolt support while working.

Nevertheless, Wolt denies ever having worked with the cell phone store. However, because of the ongoing proceedings, they do not want to comment on the case in detail. The delivery service generally stated that fair treatment of its employees was very important to it. You examine them Full screen-Researched and took appropriate action.

Wolt also admits that there have been “irregularities” with a partner in the past; couriers there were obviously not paid in full. The collaboration has now ended. Outstanding salaries have now been paid out.

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