The Cross The Weekly : You joined DHL as a delivery driver in 1991. What has changed in the profession in thirty years?
Stephane Pain: I worked in three different agencies in the Paris region, and for fifteen years I covered the CHU Henri-Mondor and the intercommunal hospital center of Créteil. I made 50 stops a day in the various departments. Like my colleagues, I delivered letters or light parcels to administrations and businesses. Today, DHL delivers heavier parcels, and more and more, to individuals. Before, this was not our core business. But it gives three times more work. There are digicodes, unexpected absences. Residential areas are dense, you have to know all the streets.
What has also changed is that the business has experienced strong growth: the number of parcels increased by 10% and turnover by 7.5% per year between 2010 and 2019 alone, even more after confinement. In March 2021, DHL Express France had met its objectives for the whole year! But instead of hiring, the management resorts to subcontracting.
What is the extent of outsourcing?
S. P. : Thirty years ago, DHL France counted among its employees 700 to 800 “mobile workers” or “marketers-deliverymen”. Today, the company employs barely more than 300, but it employs 1,300 subcontractors to do exactly the same job, with the same logo, the same supervision. The turn has been taken since 2010. In 2016, the then boss, Michel Akavi, had undertaken to maintain the ratio which prevailed between employees and subcontractors, namely 28% of employees that year. Promise forgotten: the share of employees has fallen to 16%.
Employee of DHL or a subcontractor, what’s the difference?
S. P. : Concretely, subcontractor delivery drivers earn less than DHL employees, the salary scale negotiated with us does not apply to them. None benefit from all our social advantages. They work more, ten or twelve hours a day instead of seven, with 70 or 80 stops. Often, they do not benefit from overtime. Some have no compensatory rest, no thirteenth month. Their meal allowance, if it exists, may be less than what is prescribed by the collective agreement. Some are employed part-time, paid in part “on the black”. Overall, these subcontracting companies do not respect labor law. If they did, their services would be too expensive for DHL, which uses outsourcing to reduce costs.
This system therefore allows large companies such as DHL (but also UPS, Fedex, Chronopost, etc.) to circumvent the law. Often subcontracting companies do not pay social security contributions, which represents a phenomenal shortfall, billions of euros. These small structures survive a few years in semi-illegality. They are often liquidated, then revived by the manager’s wife or cousin. In this game, DHL wins… well, not always! Last September, the Douai Court of Appeal ruled on the case of a young woman dismissed by a subcontractor in liquidation. The judge found that she was actually an employee of DHL, which therefore owes her compensation. Promising case law. Until now, it is the community that bears the financial and social costs of these thankless jobs: that must change.