Grocery delivery service Gorillas is laying off 300 workers, cutting half of its administrative staff. The start-up announced on Tuesday that the job cuts would affect the global head office in the Berlin headquarters. The drivers, the so-called riders, are not affected by these job cuts, said a spokesman.

According to Managing Director Kagan Sümer, the background to the savings is a change in strategy. At the beginning of the year he was planning another round of financing. However, capital is now harder to come by due to expected rate hikes by the central banks.

Sümer now wants to go public: “With a view to the capital markets, we have to take further steps to pave the way to profitability,” he told Reuters. “This is the next milestone. When we go public, we want to do it as a profitable company.”

According to the company spokesman, “clear developments towards a profitable business” can only be seen in five markets. These are Germany, France, Great Britain, the Netherlands and the United States. Business is apparently much worse in Italy, Spain, Denmark and Belgium. Gorillas could withdraw from them entirely.

The Berlin member of the Bundestag Cansel Kiziltepe (SPD) sees signs of a downward trend: “The announced dismissals of gorillas are probably just the beginning of a huge wave of consolidation in the industry. Gorilla workers will now have to suffer for management’s headlong fantasies of expansion,” she says.

Since the company was founded in 2020, there have always been conflicts with drivers at Gorillas. Above all, the employees criticized the working conditions and reinforced their demands with so-called wildcat strikes.

At the beginning of the year, the Senate Administration imposed a fine of 15,800 euros for violations of labor law. Procedures were also initiated against other delivery services in Berlin. The Senator for Labor Katja Kipping (left) announced focussed occupational health and safety controls in the industry.

But can the administration do that at all? That seems at least questionable, because apparently the State Office for Occupational Safety, Health Protection and Technical Safety (Lagetsi) is chronically understaffed. This emerges from the response of the Senate Department for Labor to a written request from MP Tuba Bozkurt (Greens), which is available to the Tagesspiegel.

According to this, there were a total of 193 and a half posts at Lagetsi in 2021. However, only 140 positions were filled. The non-occupation rate was 28 percent. In the previous year it was still 21 percent and in 2019 it was 22.8 percent. Bozkurt suspects that due to the blatant lack of staff, there is generally too little control.

According to the answer, the Lagetsi inspected 3,060 companies in different sectors throughout Berlin in 2021 and found 1,677 complaints. As a result, 709 procedures were initiated.

Trade was a focus with around 22 percent of the controls. According to the administration, however, it does not keep separate statistics for delivery services. It remains unclear how the targeted controls that the senator announced should be possible without separate recording.

For Tuba Bozkurt, this is a fundamental problem: In purely mathematical terms, every company in Berlin is only inspected by Berlin occupational safety every 33 years, she summarizes. “The pressure to control those who treat their employees badly is far too low,” says Bozkurt.

“The State Office for Occupational Safety knows that there are always blatant violations of occupational health and safety regulations, especially in delivery services, and that the occupational safety of employees is sometimes trampled on here. Nevertheless, it seems that there have not been any priority checks here for years.”

There are apparently also increased layoffs at other delivery services in Berlin. Drivers are particularly affected, several employees report to the Tagesspiegel. There have been layoffs at gorillas competitor Getir, among others.

An employee who wishes to remain anonymous has counted more than 50 layoffs in Berlin branches alone. As a rule, these are employees in the probationary period who are terminated by telephone without giving reasons. The Tagesspiegel has a recording of such a dismissal interview.

A Getir spokesman admits: “Getir is currently making isolated personnel adjustments. We launch markets quickly when we see a realistic business opportunity. And we also make consistent corrections in markets when we see below-average developments.” But that is a “quite normal part of growth”.