The Verdi union has reiterated its calls for a ban on subcontractors in the parcel industry. It is high time “to effectively combat precarious working conditions, exploitation and illegal employment,” said deputy union leader Andrea Kocsis.

Verdi sees itself strengthened in its own position by a report commissioned by the Hugo Sinzheimer Institute for Labor and Social Law of the Hans Böckler Foundation.

“The problem lies in the large number of opaque subcontractor chains in parcel delivery,” it says. A direct employment requirement would oblige parcel service providers to “design their work and operational organizations in such a way that they are in line with, above all, labor and occupational health and safety regulations, as they can then be held directly responsible for violations.”

Post relies on permanent employees

Parcel companies in Germany work to varying degrees with external service providers. In the mail and parcel division, the post office largely relies on its permanent workforce and on external employees for express services. The retail giant Amazon only uses subcontractors for delivery, as does the company GLS.

The industry rejects a ban on work contracts and points out their importance, particularly for smaller companies. “Small companies can participate much better in the huge parcel market if they don’t have to set up an entire nationwide network,” said the chairman of the Federal Parcel Association

The number of parcel service providers registered with the Federal Network Agency in Germany more than doubled to almost 60,000 in 2016. It has since grown to more than 72,000 by September this year. This emerges from a response from the federal government to a query from Left MP Pascal Meiser, which was submitted to the German Press Agency.

Thousands of small and micro-entrepreneurs

It says that it is not possible to differentiate between individual service providers based on the available data. But according to Verdi and the experts, there are thousands of small and micro-entrepreneurs who deliver the packages as subcontractors. Almost nine out of ten delivery companies have fewer than 20 employees.

The doubling in the course of 2016 is probably due to Amazon’s initiative to rely on self-employed parcel deliverers instead of the well-known parcel service providers such as DHL and Hermes, said Meiser. “It is high time to put an end to the limitless exploitation in the booming parcel business,” he also demanded.

According to the report, almost every second parcel delivery person in Germany is employed by subcontractors. The division of the labor market is also associated with a division of employment conditions.