When trade union optimism pays off: nemlig.com’s drivers get their fair due at long last

9 Mar 2023

Back in 2021, in an interview, Jan Villadsen shed light on the horrific working conditions at nemlig.com, an online supermarket based in Denmark. Nemlig.com has an abusive business model that relies on bogus self-employment and refuses to take responsibility for its supply chain through subcontracting.

As a result, workers in the company’s warehouse and along its supply chain are subjected to conditions similar to those found in Asian sweatshops or Danish factories from 1921. Workers are afraid of losing their job or working permit in Denmark, making them reluctant to complain or go to a union.

Despite these challenges, 3F Transport persevered and secured a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) for nemlig.com’s workers, showing that optimism can pay off in the face of difficult circumstances.

The ETF caught up with Jan Villadsen, Chairman of 3F Transport and ETF Vice-President to discuss their recent win.

The ETF has been proud to support you throughout your fight. Could you tell us about the campaign for the rights of nemlig.com’s drivers?

Jan Villadsen: 3F Transport has been campaigning and organising for almost two years, since late spring 2021. It was a multifaceted campaign: Organising and informing drivers outside nemlig.com, ads in the newspapers and flyers distributed on the streets informing consumers about which online supermarkets to use with fair working conditions and a CBA. And on top of this online campaign: sharing news stories about how the workers were treated and 3F street actions.


What were the main challenges you faced during the campaign?

Jan Villadsen: There were several challenges we faced. Firstly, a significant number of drivers were afraid to lose their jobs, so they were hesitant to talk with the union. Additionally, most of the workers are migrant workers who didn’t have much knowledge about the power of being organised. Secondly, the time factor was also a challenge, especially when we had to be in the streets in bad weather conditions or during the winter season. However, we managed to keep up the spirit and remain optimistic, believing that it was possible to get a deal.

What does this win represent for nemlig workers, and how will their conditions change now that there is an agreement?

Jan Villadsen: This win is significant for nemlig workers because a large portion of the drivers will soon be directly employed by nemlig.com. This means a job with job security and a real collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with a negotiated wage, payment for overtime work, pension, and rights like maternity leave, paternity leave, sick leave, and education. Nemlig.com will still be allowed to use subcontractors, but their wages will be the same as those directly employed.

What does this win represent for other workers in the sector?

Jan Villadsen: This is very important for all other last-mile delivery drivers. During the campaign for a CBA with nemlig.com, we managed to sign CBAs with the two biggest competitors to nemlig.com, the COOP online supermarket and a supermarket operated by Danish Salling Group. So, we now have three CBAs covering the sector and a CBA with Just Eat for fast food delivery workers. This means that we have been able to show that it is possible to cover this sector and new business models with real CBAs and real rights. It will make it easier to convince other companies that it is a good idea to negotiate with 3F Transport instead of being targeted by a campaign. Also, we hope and believe that this work will make it easier to organise more drivers in the sector and create better jobs for them in the future.

Can you provide some facts about the CBA between nemlig.com and 3F Transport?

Jan Villadsen: The recent CBA agreement between nemlig.com and 3F Transport includes a number of key provisions. The hourly wage for employees under the agreement is set at 152,65 kroner (20,30 Euro), with an additional hourly payment of 8,15 kroner (1,05 Euro) after 12 months of employment. Overtime payment is set at 39,38 kroner (5,3 euro) per hour or 96,73 (12,9) per hour, depending on time/day. Employees who work between 18:00 and 23:00 are entitled to an additional pay of 40,51 kroner (5,40 euro) per hour, while those who work between 23:00 and 06:00 and on Sundays and bank holidays will receive 45,44 kroner (6,05 euro) per hour.

In addition to these hourly wages, the CBA agreement also provides additional benefits. These include gradually introduced pension contributions of 12% of the wage (8 paid by the employer), a special additional payment of 7% of the wage, and holiday money equal to 12.5% of the wage. Other provisions in the agreement include entitlements to breaks on shifts of more than 5 hours, additional holidays, sick pay, paid maternity and paternity leave, and special conditions for senior workers. Finally, a training and education fund will be established by nemlig.com to support employees under the agreement.

Proof that optimism and hard trade union work always pay off!