Message in a bottle and expressed thirst: “An atmosphere of fear”


The Oetker Group plans to merge its Durstexpress online delivery service with its competitor Bottle Post. Early was later SWRThe research put tremendous pressure on both companies’ workforce.

By Marcel Kolvenbach, SWR

In the midst of the crown pandemic, the Oetker Group wants to merge its online delivery service Durstexpress with its competitor Bottle Post. One billion euros are said to have gone into the acquisition of the beverage delivery startup.

However, employees raise serious allegations: In the run-up to the billion-dollar deal, there was severe pressure on both companies’ workforce, they report SWR. For example, a Message in a Bottle employee, who wants to remain anonymous, claims that he only discovered the planned acquisition through the media. The rumors have been around for a long time, only the amount knocked it down.

The online information service Deutsche Startups had released the news that the Oetker Group was taking over the beverage startup Bottle Post for a billion euros. “We do not comment on the purchase price mentioned in numerous media,” a spokesperson for the Oetker Group company told the company upon request. SWR.

The business model of the Münster-based startup: Customers order and pay for drinks online via the app and delivery is free within two hours. The company reports over two million orders per year, which 8,000 employees process part-time and full-time at 22 locations across Germany.

Complaints about extreme working conditions

From the perspective of affected employees, the $ 1 billion acquisition seems almost obscene. “The bride is supposed to be beautiful,” commented an employee embittered by this record figure. To do this, they would have to work just above the minimum wage.

Team and shift bosses would have to work unpaid overtime, drivers often would not be able to finish the job on time, there would be problems with work safety and employees absent due to illness through no fault of their own are were quickly fired.

The company took advantage of the fact that many employees were part-time and there was no operational say. Prior to the acquisition, they obviously wanted to keep employee costs low on the balance sheet. “There is nothing worse than a message in a bottle”, is his conclusion.

Message in a bottle sees a local problem

Faced with the statements, the company responded to the SWR, the accusations from the Düsseldorf branch “do not represent a representative state of mind from our point of view, but are very localized and person specific”. There are “visible progress”, such as the introduction of measures to facilitate work or, more recently, a widespread increase in wages in logistics. The issue of health and safety at work has the highest priority, additional travel or shift extension is based on voluntary work and overtime is fully paid.

However, the relationship between workforce and employer in Düsseldorf remains strained. However, when some employees elected a works council in April, the message in a bottle went to court. Those affected say employees who volunteered have been fired.

Dispute over the establishment of a works council

The company stated in the face of that SWRthat the founding process at the Düsseldorf office was not transparent, legally compliant and fair. A decision by the Düsseldorf Labor Court confirmed this. The resolutions were related to the election of a works council, but to the inadequate management of the headquarters.

Mohamed Boudih, regional president of the North Rhine-Westphalia regional district president of the Food and Beverage Restaurants Union (NGG), views the process differently. The decision of the Düsseldorf Labor Court was not final, the works council election was open to appeal according to the court but it was nothing, so the NGG filed a complaint and the next instance is awaiting a decision.

In Boudih’s assessment, the startup’s management to date has not been employee-friendly, which is why NGG hopes the situation will improve with the acquisition: “Working with unions is actually good form for Oetker. Here’s why. we expect them to do so. Company policy will also change and complaints will be healed “.

Facilities similar to Durstexpress

But after searching for the SWR This seems different in current practice, because there is already a company in the Oetker group with a very similar business model: Durstexpress with 3,500 full-time and part-time employees at its Berlin headquarters and in 14 logistics centers in ten cities.

Conversations with numerous former and active employees of Durstexpress, contractual documents and pay slips, that SWR present, documents problems very similar to those of the message in a bottle.

“In Dr. Oetker’s area of ​​responsibility, trade unionists were fired at Berlin’s Durstexpress last year to prevent works council elections. This has been known to the public for over a year. Dr. Oetker doesn’t seem to be able to either. not be willing to meet basic employer obligations such as regular and fair wage payments to ensure freedom of association in its beverage supply division. “Sören Winter of the Leipzig Free Workers’ Union (FAU) criticizes the SWR the situation.

The anarcho-trade union FAU, observed by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, rejects existing unions and in recent years has become increasingly interested in the startup industry and the gig economy, which traditional workers’ organizations have so far often neglected.

No reliable income

In addition to numerous problems with payrolls, the reduction in working hours in the new contracts, the SWR FAU believes the biggest problem is that 60% of part-time order pickers ‘working hours and 30% of part-time drivers’ working hours were cut at Durstexpress Leipzig in October. There are similar reports from other branches, says Winter. Many colleagues would not get the contractually agreed minimum time.

Durstexpress claimed in the face of that SWR the fact that the right to extra hours during favorable hours is not guaranteed due to fluctuating demand.

Further gains and job losses are feared

Leipzig employees fear massive loss of revenue due to the merger with Message in a Bottle, which operates its own “fleet warehouse” a few hundred meters away in the same industrial area.

They could not defend themselves against this, because as with the Münster startup, union work would also be prevented directly at the Oetker branch, criticizes Winter. FAU representatives were expelled from the site by the branch manager and the distribution of information material was not allowed.

Durstexpress is fundamentally open to employee participation, the company explains. Employees speak of a “climate of fear”. They fear that you will eventually have to pay the price for the billion-dollar exit celebrated in the German startup scene – with worse working conditions, less pay or job losses.


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