Raising standards for parcel delivery workers

15 Jun 2023

Every day, millions of parcels are delivered to households and businesses all over the world in record time. Delivery drivers for major global brands like Hermes, DPD, Fedex, Amazon and UPS, to name but a few, are now a familiar presence in our town centres and neighbourhoods. But what is it like to deliver parcels for these logistics and e-commerce firms?

ETF affiliate ver.di asked this question to courier, express and parcel (CEP) delivery drivers working for Hermes, DPD, Amazon and UPS, among others, in Germany. The responses received reveal an industry rife with exploitation.

Workers reported a catalogue of violations, including unpaid overtime, too many stops and parcels, heavy packages, casual employment, no sick leave, threatening employers and no cover for accidents.

Ver.di argues that the problems for these workers are only getting worse as parcel volumes grow and will continue to increase in the coming years by as much as 25 % by 2015.

Only 1 in 3 delivery drivers is directly employed, while the majority deliver through agencies, subcontracted firms or are falsely considered to be self-employed. This leaves drivers exposed to fewer work protections, including sick leave, holiday pay, and other benefits of regular employment. According to ver.di’s investigation, Hermes, DPD and Amazon have almost 0% own delivery staff, while UPS and Fedex. have just 55% own drivers.

The many problems reported by the subcontracted courier drivers are diverse:

  • Too many stops, too many parcels and also fines for non-delivery
  • Up to 4 hours of overtime per day, often not paid or even recorded.
  • Working in a reserve pool; suspension in case of refusal
  • Accident damages often must be paid by the employee
  • Employers do not “allow” sick leave: dismissal in case of incapacity for work
  • Warnings, notices and threats of dismissal by the employer
  • Temporary contracts; the threat of non-renewal

Verdi is now calling for a piece of legislation to secure workers’ rights in the parcel sector. In particular, they demand:

  • a ban on the use of external staff for transport and delivery by parcel service providers and on the use of subcontracting chains
  • a weight limit of 20 kg for parcel shipments in one-man handling, as well as mandatory labelling for “heavy parcels”.
  • effective enforcement of rules in the sector.

During the ETF’s Executive Committee meeting of 7-8th June 2023, ver.di’s proposal was discussed, and affiliates agreed on the need to develop proposals for similar protections in their respective countries and to support the work done by ver.di in Germany.

We support ver.di’s proposals for delivery drivers and call on policymakers and employers to ensure that their rights are respected. 

Moreover, ETF and our affiliates will be advocating for the rights of logistics workers during a dedicated week of action across Europe to mark this year’s International Day for Decent Work on October 7th.

Our economies and lives have never been more dependent on the rapid movement of goods and access to services that logistics workers provide. Online shopping and fast delivery kept people and the economy alive during the pandemic. The ETF is committed to driving out exploitation in the sector and supporting our affiliates in their fight for fair logistics.