Restaurateurs feel the pain as food-delivery couriers go on debilitating strike

Association of Catering Establishments says it will raise its concerns over striking workers and issues with wages with authorities in a bid to avoid debilitating strike action

A lobby of restaurateurs has said a strike by over 500 Bolt couriers had affected catering establishments who could not take their business to online clients.

Platform-work food couriers hailed Friday’s strike a success after sending out warning that they would not back down until their demands for better pay are met.

An estimated 500 couriers took part in Friday’s strike, organised in protest at their working conditions, and after a courier was beaten up in Zabbar while picking up an order from a pizzeria.

But the Association of Catering Establishments, which is separate from the larger MHRA lobby, said it had followed “with concern” the Bolt strike.

“Although ACE feels that workers have a right to strike, it feels that such actions will ultimately impinge on the catering establishments. This is more so given the challenges the industry already faces.

“The association will in the coming days raise such concerns with all relevant authorities so such situations will not repeat themselves.”

ACE used the strike to call on catering establishments to join the association “so their rights are properly safeguarded”, and insisted that according to its own survey, adequate salaries were being paid in the industry. It said couriers should contact the association so it can assist them in finding jobs with fair and proper pay.

NGO Moviment Graffitti said that the conduct of Bolt and the couriers’ employment agencies was “tantamount to modern slavery”.

It said that workers had to give up to 50% of their income from deliveries to the agencies that employ them, whilst Bolt consistently lowered the delivery rates. “Workers are drained by the system where they have to do enough deliveries to reach the targets set by the agencies, whilst getting increasingly meagre pay for every delivery,” Moviment Graffitti said.

The NGO said that 95% of the couriers participated in the strike, calling it a “clear show of force by the workers”. It said that they are determined to continue their actions in the coming weeks. “It is totally shameful that Maltese authorities are allowing this abuse, with hundreds of workers savagely exploited for the profits of a few parasites.”

Bolt couriers who spoke to MaltaToday said the strike had been a “massive step forward”, with only very few couriers on the road. “For us yesterday was the first step of many, and a successful one at that. Some of the couriers are continuing the strike this morning out of solidarity,” a spokesperson told MaltaToday.

In July 2021, in two separate applications filed before the commercial court, one of the shareholders in the company operating Bolt’s mobile-app technology – TXF Tech – sued the same company and TXF Tunisia Holding for €1.6 million, over the non-payment of two constitutions of debt. In April 2022, the company then started operating independently through its group companies after its partnership agreement with TXF Tech ended in March.