Wolt Workers on Strike! Standing Up Against Wage Theft and Exploitative Subcontracting


In Berlin on April 5th, 2023, Wolt riders took to the streets to protest against their employer. Approximately 120 migrant workers who had been working for subcontractors of Wolt alleged that they had been denied payment for several months, amounting to several thousand euros in unpaid wages. These workers were demanding their rightful payments from the company, and an end to the exploitative subcontracting system at Wolt.

Wolt, a Finnish food delivery service, has been expanding rapidly across Europe and Asia, with Berlin being its latest market. In an interview, Wolt manager Patrick Dümer claimed that the company’s strategy was not based on low prices and dumping wages, but rather on quality and innovation, stating, “We do not engage in social dumping. We grew up in Scandinavia and appreciate the welfare state model. Accordingly, we take responsibility for our customers and employees.” However, the recent strike by Wolt riders in Berlin tells a different story.

The riders, who work on behalf of subcontractors for Wolt, gathered at Karl-Marx-Straße in Neukölln to voice their grievances. They alleged that they had not been paid their wages since November, with the total amount of outstanding payments reaching around 100,000 euros for approximately 120 workers. Samee Ullah, one of the protesters and a long-time Wolt worker, highlighted that Wolt had shifted to a subcontractor system due to increased competition, and the company had not hired anyone directly since November. Instead, job applicants were directed to various addresses in Berlin to sign contracts with the subcontractors, known as Fleetpartners.

The protest continued as the riders rode their bikes to the Wolt headquarters in Stralauer Allee, Friedrichshain, where they intended to deliver written demands for the unpaid wages to Wolt management. However, they were met with closed doors and were unable to hand over the letters to the company. Muhammad S., a delivery driver who attempted to deliver the letters, stated that the man at the reception had told him that Wolt did not have a mailbox, adding to the frustration and disappointment of the protesting workers.

This situation of wage theft and subcontracting is not unique to Wolt. In recent years, there has been a growing trend of companies in the gig economy hiding behind subcontractors to avoid taking responsibility for fair wages and workers’ rights. This practice allows companies to shift the burden of labor costs onto workers and evade legal obligations, such as providing benefits and job security. It is a form of exploitation that leaves vulnerable workers, often migrants and those from marginalized communities, at the mercy of unscrupulous subcontractors and companies that prioritize profits over fair treatment of their workers.

The Wolt riders’ strike in Berlin is a brave and necessary action to demand fair treatment and hold the company accountable for its actions. These workers, despite facing fears of losing their jobs or residency status, have chosen to stand up against wage theft and exploitative subcontracting practices. Their voices and actions should not be ignored, and it is imperative for Wolt and other companies in the gig economy to address these issues and prioritize the well-being and rights of their workers.

The recent strike by Wolt riders in Berlin sheds light on the pervasive issue of wage theft and exploitative subcontracting in the gig economy. Companies cannot continue to hide behind subcontractors to shirk their responsibilities towards fair wages and workers’ rights. It is crucial for companies like Wolt to take immediate action to address these grievances, ensure fair treatment of their workers, and create a sustainable and equitable work environment. Workers’ rights and dignity should never be compromised in the pursuit of profits.

Here is a video summarizing the protests.

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