By Leandro Lutzky / ambito.com
The Application Delivery Workers Base Union was born in 2020, while mandatory isolation was in effect due to the pandemic. The harshness of the trade and the strong job insecurity forced them to organize and now they dream of being recognized by the State.
The assistant secretary of the Base Union of Distribution Workers by Application (Sitrarepa), the first of its kind in Argentina, is called Belén. She prefers that her name appear in the report like this, just like that, without her last name: nobody, not even the leaders of this new guild, want to be blocked from Rappi or Pedidos Ya, in retaliation for organizing. “They are concealed layoffs,” she clarifies.
History of a guild
The migration of unemployed labor towards delivery apps had its ‘boom’ in the pandemic. While the world stopped, job opportunities were opening up within reach of a phone. It is that, for those below, sheltering at home was not an option.
“We noticed a great contradiction. We had to present an ‘essential worker’ certificate to circulate, but we did not have any rights as such,” says Belén. That, added to the fact that no application guaranteed them even basic supplies to protect themselves from the coronavirus. “We were exposed, there was no gel alcohol and the masks began to arrive later,” she recalls.
The union was born in 2020, at the harshest moment of social isolation, in the heat of solidarity stops to shelter from the cold, or simply talk to another delivery person, in an area that encourages extreme individualism. In fact, his first objective was not a basic salary, much less an insurance for work risks. The fight was against loneliness: “The organization began on the basis of congregating to make us endure, at the doors of shopping malls and food houses, such as Abasto or Plaza Serrano.” They also put sanitary posts there.
Today Sitrarepa has 2,500 members throughout the country. Some workers from Mercado Flex and Rapiboy also joined them. “Collaborators”, according to the business perspective. Their next step is to be recognized by the Ministry of Labor, gaining the entity to represent the distributors and dispute rights, before the State and companies in the sector.
To get to this point, before there were claims in the offices of the firms: “We realized that they were shell companies, nobody came out to give us an answer,” he reviews. When they took their list of claims to the Ministry, there was also disappointment: “There they told us that they were not competent, because of course, we are ‘collaborators’, in the eyes of anyone who sees the relationship built by the company.” Indeed, they were not organized under a union structure either.
Now, due to insistence, the request for union recognition appears in a ministerial file, which should be moved.
The basic claims of the dealers
Immediately, the Sitrarepa asks for an increase in the rates charged for each shipment. “It’s not enough for us to make ends meet,” describes the interviewee. “Secondly, we ask for our labor recognition. We need to be recognized as workers,” she adds. And, from there, access a more regular regime: “Have social work, sick days, paid vacations and all rights.”
Belén continues: “The work tools, having insurance against all risks. If something happens to us with the motorcycle or bicycle, someone should take care of it, because we are the ones who have to put it out of our pocket. Also if the phone breaks. All the costs of the work are put by us, and the profits are taken by the companies.”
For these claims to find a way, says Belén, “recognition of the trade union tool” is needed. Meanwhile, everything is debated in the solidarity parades on the street.
A job without schedules?
The most common thing is to think that this ‘freelance’ job does not have schedules, but this would not be so. Although it is true that delivery men can adapt their preferred hours in Rappi, Pedidos Ya and Rapiboy, they must select time slots to go out to deliver orders. The shifts, explains Belén, can be three or four hours. And you have to work on them, unless you want to be sanctioned in the application. Many reserve a slot, rest for an hour, and use the next slot again.
“A delivery worker, to reach a salary of 80,000 pesos, has to work at least 8 hours, six days a week,” she details. As if it were a video game, but in capitalist life, the position in the ‘ranking’ of the dealer is key to earn more money. This leaderboard is determined by runs and productivity.
On the other hand, being an informal job, companies ask their delivery companies to invoice in order to pay them. Generally, it is done once every 15 days. This is a way for the company to justify money expenditures before the tax authorities, but without recognizing the employment relationship, saving all the expenses that this entails.
But, would a classic work scheme, with fixed hours, be compatible in the world of platforms? The flexibility also allows someone in a bind to find a trade fast. “This work by application atomizes the workers, and makes us be alone against the world, facing all the precariousness. What whitening should be like, should be discussed with all the compañeras and compañeros,” replies Belén.
Forum for Alternatives to ‘Uberization’ in Brussels
The advancement of technology ‘versus’ labor rights is a debate that is not only present in Argentina. In fact, at the beginning of September the Third Forum of Alternatives to Uberization was held in Brussels, where a representative of Sitrarepa participated. There, international experiences were shared and various possibilities were discussed to give more guarantees to the workers involved in the screens of their cell phones.
This, while the European Parliament began a series of panels to expose and analyze a possible regulation for workers by application, considering the role of the algorithm and automation in business control. Specifically, there is the possibility that a project is drawn up from the ‘Old Continent’, which could have its rebound in the rest of the world.