Bolt, Wolt and the Department of Finance declined to give figures for the number of food couriers currently working in Malta, amid widespread concerns about their earnings and working conditions.
Lovin Malta sent questions to all three entities to gain insight into the realities of the industry. These included the number of people working either as freelancers or as agencies and fleet operators; and a full list of agencies and operators that work with food courier platforms.
Only Bolt posted some sort of response, telling the newsroom that he couldn’t release the numbers due to commercial sensitivity. Wolt and the Ministry of Finance simply ignored the questions sent.
Malta’s food courier platforms, which are the flagship business of the emerging gig economy, have come under scrutiny in recent months, particularly after workers at Bolt Food went on strike over their low income.
The food courier industry – mainly dominated by Wolt and Bolt – has grown in popularity in Malta during the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping countless businesses afloat, and it has remained very active after the end of restrictions on food. restaurants and social gatherings.
However, the industry has come under fire for the working conditions of some couriers. While EU nationals can be self-employed for food messaging apps and other gig economy platforms, third-country nationals must find employment through an operator. of fleet.
A large proportion of the strikers were third-country nationals employed by fleet agencies. And while there are many fair operators in the field, many cowboy operators, who collect exploratory fees and rates from their couriers, create major problems.
In some cases, fleet agencies, which act as employers for third-country nationals who work with food courier platforms, deduct at least 50% of their salary.
Meanwhile, Bolt Food has steadily reduced the fees paid to couriers by cutting their peak bonuses by a average over 50%.
A courier explained to Lovin Malta that he only earns “around €40-50 in hand, after a 12-15 hour working day, because around 50% has to go to [their] agencies”.
According to the figures, it seems that there are third-country national Bolt workers who earn between €2.66 and €3.33 per hour on a good day. The minimum wage in Malta is €4.57.
However, operators on the ground who spoke to Lovin Malta insist that the problem lies with a few cowboy entrepreneurs and that many are providing a level playing field.
The Ministry of Finance had once pledged to fix the industry’s problems, but little seems to have been done.
Yet there are fears that the industry is also creating modern slavery, as this video by Jon Mallia shows:
How many couriers work in Malta?