Larnaca on Friday joined the 200 Wolt drivers striking in Nicosia and Limassol, upping the pressure against the delivery company to change its working conditions.
Drivers across three of the island’s cities say their wages have been cut and fleet managers – middlemen between Wolt and the drivers – keep around 40 per cent of their wages.
Wolt was continuing to face problems offering its services in both Limassol and Nicosia, as a result of the ongoing strikes. The matter has now become a matter of who will blink first. More and more drivers are joining the strike, while Wolt is seeing an impact on its delivery capabilities amid calls to boycott the company.
Nonetheless, Peo union has now stepped in to represent the migrants and is assisting them by offering food and help to keep up their fight. It has filed a complaint with the labour ministry.
“We are taken aback by everything we have found out about how these drivers are being treated,” Nicosia district general secretary for Syxka Peo, Michalis Tsikkouris, told the Cyprus Mail.
He added drivers were getting social insurance deductions but in some cases it has emerged that the money wasn’t actually paid in.
The labour ministry has taken interviews from some 100 drivers and is expected to revert back on Monday to decide future steps. Peo is pushing for a meeting between Wolt, fleet managers and the union to “put an end to these practises.”
Presidential candidate Achilleas Demetriades said the government could not simply be a spectator to such practices and had a role to play on the matter.
“This is an opportunity to openly talk about what is happening behind closed doors: working conditions should not be separated based on colour,” he said.
Asylum seekers, political refugees or third-country nationals working as students have only one avenue to work for Wolt: through a third-party agent called a fleet manager.
The exact amount that fleet managers deduct differs, with some saying 41 per cent, others 37 per cent and others 35. Around 11 per cent is deducted for Gesy and social insurance contribution and the remaining 30 per cent as an agent fee.
On top of this, drivers have to pay petrol as their own expense, they say. Fleet managers also work with other food delivery companies under the same conditions, according to the drivers.
“These fleet managers make anywhere between €150-€300 from each driver every month, and the managers don’t even do anything,” Tsikkouris said.
There are a number of these companies and Wolt has a poster outside its Limassol office listing 11 of them, with mobile numbers for the agents. “If you are an asylum seeker / student, you need to become to become an employee of a fleet manager that we cooperate with. Please contact them directly and they will guide you. No need to come to the Wolt office.”
A representative from one of the companies told the Cyprus Mail that the cut is around 35 per cent – not 41 – and the company doesn’t even make a 10 per cent profit. He also said the company pays the drivers’ fuel and that the strikers were threatening willing drivers.
Police said they were not aware of any instances of violence. Despite the strike and issues providing a service, Wolt said it was not considering revising the work model.
Members of the public have since called for a boycott. Two companies told the Cyprus Mail they are no longer in the business while others said they were in touch with lawyers and so reserved the right to not immediately respond.
The strike began in Nicosia on Tuesday after drivers protested pay cuts to their pay rates, amid increasing costs of living. Limassol drivers took up strikes on Thursday.
It has since become a broader problem after it emerged that drivers – usually third country nationals – have to work through fleet managers, who make a 41 per cent cut on driver’s earnings.
Wolt boasts that it pays a rate of above €8.50. In the case of fleet managers, this is paid to them who then distribute it – minus whatever deductions – to drivers
The other avenue to work for Wolt is to be a freelancer where someone must be self-employed but this is only possible for EU nationals. “If you are an EU citizen, holder of a yellow slip or marriage certificate,” then they can apply through the Wolt partner app.