Who should sign up for Amazon Flex

Union warns against Amazon Flex - private parcel delivery service

Amazon wants to cope with the Christmas business with the help of independent parcel carriers. The Verdi union speaks of "precarious job conditions".

For German parcel deliverers, the weeks leading up to Christmas are in a state of emergency: delivery services must mobilize all their resources to cope with the expected flood of parcels. The online retailer Amazon also relies on freelance workers: Since last week, the group has been promoting private drivers with "Amazon Flex". With the help of an app on behalf of Amazon, they are supposed to deliver parcels in their own car. In Germany, "Amazon Flex" will initially only start in Berlin. Interested parties in other regions are put on a waiting list.

In the USA, England and Singapore, cooperation with private parcel carriers is already working well, explains Amazon. "Thousands of partners" would supplement their income with occasional delivery trips in their free time. On the website, the company advertises with "earnings of up to 64 euros" for a four-hour shift. Amazon speaks of "delivery blocks". The drivers could freely allocate these depending on availability.

At first glance, it looks tempting

"Be your own boss and work on your schedule," the website says. That sounds good at first. But behind this promise of freedom hides a precarious employment relationship, warns Verdi spokesman Andreas Splanemann. Because in practice, the work model means that employees are available on call. While permanent employees are paid regardless of the order situation, flex drivers only earn when there is a lot to do and additional work is left for them.

Flex drivers have to apply for these delivery blocks called up at short notice by Amazon, which are remunerated at 16 euros per hour. Every Flex driver is in direct competition with other private parcel carriers. The coveted shifts, for example in the evenings or on the weekend, when many casual jobbers want to earn extra money, could quickly become scarce. The flex driver cannot expect a reasonably secure livelihood.

Amazon is trying with the "partnership program" to shift the entrepreneurial risk on to external employees, says the union representative Splanemann.

"We notice that such job offers are increasing in the precarious area," says Splanemann. One of the reasons: More and more people do not earn enough in their jobs to stay afloat. Under such circumstances, offers such as those from Amazon fell on fertile ground in Germany, says the Verdi spokesman.

Deliver parcels after work?

Amazon deliberately makes starting a job easy for its future freelancers. There does not seem to be any special prerequisites for flex drivers: the self-employed parcel delivery service must be at least 18 years old and have a driver's license. They also need a car and a smartphone. From a legal point of view, they are considered self-employed and therefore need a trade license.

At the same time, Amazon does not seem to make any move to pay for drivers' expenses, such as gasoline or insurance. The Amazon Flex website is also silent about other details of the agreement. "I can only recommend everyone to be careful," says Splanemann. It is not clear under what conditions one works here.

Amazon Flex is not an isolated case. Delivery services such as "Deliveroo" and "Foodora" also employ an army of freelancers to keep the costs of their service low. Young people in particular let themselves be lured into such precarious working conditions by the promise of flexible working hours and easy job entry, according to Splanemann. "They see it as a sporting challenge," he suspects.

The bicycle couriers are forced to circle popular "hotspots" in a kind of waiting loop, always in the hope of getting an order. They are left with the costs of cell phones, data connections and bicycle repairs.

It should be similar with Amazon Flex: The deliveries must be picked up from Amazon shipping centers or directly from the retailer and brought to the customer's address within a certain period of time. Amazon itself celebrates the concept in a statement as an "innovation" that is supposed to "enable even faster delivery".

All delivery services save on personnel costs

Amazon defends itself against the Verdi allegations of creating precarious job relationships with reference to its own job offers. Anyone interested in a permanent position at Amazon can apply to the logistics centers or customer service, for example. This year alone, Amazon created around 2,000 jobs in Germany.

(Source: Statista / t-online)

The online mail order company is looking for reinforcements, especially at Christmas time. Around 13,000 seasonal workers are expected to help out during the Christmas business this year. In practice, this means a temporary doubling of the Amazon workforce in Germany. This is not unusual: In previous years, the group had hired more than ten thousand employees for the Christmas business. According to the company, the hourly wage in the logistics centers is at least 10.52 euros.

Other delivery services are also struggling with staff shortages during these months. Almost all of them use external service providers temporarily or hire freelancers. As soon as the Christmas business is over, these employees would be dropped again, Verdi criticizes.

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  • Subjects:
  • Digital,
  • Internet,
  • Security,
  • Amazon,
  • Christmas,
  • Unions,
  • Berlin,
  • Verdi,
  • Amazon Flex,
  • Parcel carrier