At the Gorillas grocery delivery service, numerous employees have stopped working. The strikers protest against the dismissal of a colleague and accuse management of obstructing the ongoing establishment of a works council. On Wednesday evening around 50 employees blocked a warehouse in Berlin-Mitte and prevented deliveries. Further actions have been announced for Thursday, and a delivery warehouse in Prenzlauer Berg was blocked in the morning.
At the Berlin startup with a valuation of billions, the boom hangs crooked. Some of the 1,500 or so Berlin employees who pack and deliver groceries want to set up a works council. The management officially supports this, but the employees accuse the management of hindering the establishment. The food-gourmet-restaurants union (NGG) and Verdi as well as the Free Workers’ Union (FAU) support the establishment of the works council.
Establishment of a works council
Last week, the organizers of the works council had invited to a staff meeting to elect an electoral board. This is the first step when founding a works council. If an electoral board has been appointed, it can then elect the actual works council. The organizers say that around 150 employees with voting rights took part in the works meeting.
There has been a dispute over who is allowed access to the staff meeting. The law provides that employees can remain to themselves when a works council is established. Executives may be denied access to the meetings. But not only in this case, the ideas of what a manager is, diverge.
After the election of the electoral board, the management sent an email to all employees, in which they emphasized their support for the elections. At the same time, the management was “shocked” that some employees had been denied access to the meeting. The organizers tell heise online that only executives were not admitted. They harassed employees and tried to secretly gain entry.
The company contradicts this. “This is not correct,” says a spokesman for heise online. “We can confirm that around 60-70 people were not allowed to vote by the organizers. These are exclusively Gorillas employees without personnel responsibility. They should therefore have been allowed to vote.”
The organizers accuse the management of systematically obstructing the establishment of the works council. “Gorillas fully supports the establishment of the works council,” explains the spokesman. The company “continues to work with the organizers.” The organizers accuse the management against trying to fire one of the initiators.
The current strikes are directed against contractual terms and – as the strikers see it – arbitrary layoffs. New colleagues currently have a six-month trial period for one-year contracts, explains an employee representative to heise online. The striking employees are demanding a shorter probationary period and a warning system to prevent arbitrary layoffs, as well as the reinstatement of a colleague.
The termination of the employee, whose reinstatement is requested, was “exclusively behavioral,” explains the company spokesman. “As in all companies, there are clear guidelines at Gorillas when it comes to misconduct that can lead to termination. This week, following cases of gross misconduct, the decision was made to terminate an employee’s contract within his probationary period.”
Gorillas was founded in 2020 and is considered one of the hottest German startups. It’s about a billion dollar market. In a financing round at the beginning of the year, the delivery service was able to collect 240 million euros from investors and is valued at around one billion euros – which means the rare “unicorn” status in the startup world. Many of the startup’s employees have a migration background; English is spoken.
Gorillas’ business model is hyper-local food delivery. In just ten minutes, the startup delivers everyday items that can be ordered in an app. To this end, the company operates numerous small warehouses in the city, from which the bicycle couriers deliver the orders. The company is expanding rapidly and is active in 18 German cities as well as in France, Italy, the Netherlands and Great Britain.
“Gorillas are deliberately not part of the gig economy,” the spokesman continued. “All Gorillas employees, including the rider and warehouse employees, are contractually employed on a permanent or part-time basis, which offers them regular working hours, health insurance, sick pay, opportunities for advancement and a secure income.” Employees who are involved in the campaigns also say that they actually enjoy working for gorillas, but they demand better conditions,
But the gorillas are not without controversy. In Berlin, the company has rented some empty shops in residential areas for its distribution centers. Local residents complain of annoyance from the daily delivery of food, blocked sidewalks and noise. The company closed one location in Berlin after residents protests.
At the beginning of May, Gorillas made headlines with a data leak. Over a million order details from 200,000 customers were publicly available. The records contained the name, telephone number, email address and physical address of the orders as well as the products ordered and the expiration date of the credit card, if this was used to pay.