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Don't worry, we speak : Español (Spanish), too!

Ordering food on an app will be tough today: Delivery workers in Latin America striking

Don't worry, we speak : Español (Spanish), too!

Contxto – It is often said that crises bring out the best and the worst in people. I prefer to think that they bring out the strengths and weaknesses within our societies. So, to solve collective problems, people tend to react in unison, as delivery workers across Latin America are doing today by striking.

This industrial action spreads far and wide across borders and across platforms. Cities in Peru, Chile, Argentina, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, and more will be filled with couriers. But this time they won’t be diligently delivering, they’ll be protesting.

Big-name delivery apps will be affected. These include Glovo, Rappi, PedidosYa, UberEats, SinDelantal, the list goes on…

Although there is always a push-and-pull negotiation between owners and labor in what is a tight-margin, gig economy sector, the coronavirus pandemic has really put the negotiations in stark contrast as deliverers feed a world in quarantine: 

Companies say we’re superheroes, when actually we’re being super-exploited.

Delivery worker demands

Latin American delivery workers want to show just how essential they are by striking today. They are framing their demands within the context of this pandemic, looking to be remunerated for the sacrifices they are making by putting themselves in the virus’ way. 

Workers are asking for:

  • A minimum wage 
  • Sufficient protective and health gear concurrent with the long hours they work
  • Pension and healthcare provisions
  • The end of sudden firings by unexplained disconnection 
  • Consistent terms and conditions for workers 

Strength in numbers

Mobility and activist mobilization are increasingly linked nowadays, as the sector has unwittingly become a centerpiece of governments’ policies to keep people at home. 

Last week Contxto reported on the groundbreaking alliance between mobility and last-mile delivery apps in Colombia. This collective action was on the part of the owners to plead with the government and the country to allow them to do their jobs without stifling them with unwieldy regulation.

Even delivery workers have been striking, but on a smaller scale. Indeed, in a more isolated fashion, Latin America saw similar strikes on April 22 and May 8 of this year, but on a much smaller scale.  

Yet, the demands of these parties will be tough to reconcile. Global macroeconomic instability put workers’ needs for increased benefits at loggerheads with companies’ need to cut costs and cover shortfalls. 

However, the scale of forthcoming negotiations could be taking shape by the international nature of these protests. 

The economy is globalized, to take on the whole world is a bit of a tall order, to stick to one’s own city or country does not go far enough. It would seem that the regional approach is the way forward.

Startups held to a higher standard

Even though the negotiations will be hard, it is imperative for the startups and their workforces to come to an agreement.

It is not only a moral obligation, but rather this ecosystem’s raison d’être. The time has come for the lofty ideals of venture capitalists (VCs), founders, and innovators to match their actions in these hard times. 

In fact, living up to high standards may be just the way to survive through these tough times. Exploitative practices in a crisis economy are as unsustainable as pouring flammable waste into the seas and rivers. Eventually, it will catch fire. 

For today, the strikers will strike and then the ball will be in the app’s court. Let’s see how this plays out.

-AG

Alejandro González Ormerod
Historian, writer, and editor from Mexico City. He was a book publisher, academic, and cheesemonger before joining Contxto. Still deciding on which Latin American country to visit next; food and fun are the main criteria.

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