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Grow Mobility conflict with laid-off Grin workers, negotiations collapse

Don't worry, we speak : Español (Spanish), too!

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Contxto – If you’ve been following this story you’ll find the situation has grown tense amid contradictory information from both parties. Therefore, we at Contxto have opted to keep you posted on the facts without the usual amount of editorializing.

Below you can find a brief recap of what has happened so far. If you want to dig deeper, click on the related article below to start this story from the beginning, as we slowly gathered the contrasting information over the past few days.

Related article: Laid-off workers occupy Grin’s scooter warehouse in Mexico City, Covid-19 to blame says Grow

Lost in translation

On the night of March 24, we were contacted by Grin scooter distributors after they read our initial piece on their occupation of the Mexican-Brazilian startup’s premises.

We were told that they were being shifted into other lower-paid jobs in companies like fast-food chain, KFC. They also complained that they were not being paid their due settlement. 

Contxto was additionally informed that lawyers doing the sacking worked for an outsourcing company, but they were accompanied by representatives of Human Resources from Grow Mobility

Furthermore, the workers shared with Contxto a series of videos. One of them featuring a man sent by the outsourcing company telling the laid-off workers the following things:

  1. That they were being channeled to another job with help from the company.
  2. That they were being laid-off because “Grin is broke, it’s completely broke.”

These were some pretty stringent terms, so we quickly got in touch with Grow to find out if any of this was actually the case.

March 26, CEO of Grow Mobility, says…

Keen to put the subject to rest, I was able to talk to Grow Mobility‘s CEO, Roberto Álvarez. 

He wanted one thing to be made patently and unquestionably clear:

It is an absolute lie that Grow Mobility is broke. In fact, as you may well know, Grow has been bought by another company, but we have enough money on our own to weather this storm for months.

Roberto Álvarez, CEO of Grow Mobility

You may have caught me burying the lead there—that was Grow Mobility’s CEO confirming that the company had been officially sold. The details of this, dear readers, will be coming to you soon in another article. 

Álvarez then pivoted to his frustration with how the labor conflict had emerged and escalated.

It seems to have been a misunderstanding. We didn’t expect our employees to react in the way that they did.

Roberto Álvarez, CEO of Grow Mobility

He claimed that the company was letting people go because of the declared pandemic. Grow’s high overheads and only source of income depending on people freely moving around cities made the lay-offs inevitable with social distancing.

Álvarez continued, stating that the goal was to keep employees within close proximity to Grin since they hope to rehire them after social isolation has ended.

We are really happy with our workforce. They have been part of this great team that has built Grin, but right now the company cannot afford to not cut overheads. However, over the past months, these people have gathered and perfected the skills to do their job. They know where and when to set down scooters, they know when one is faulty, and so on.

Roberto Álvarez, CEO of Grow Mobility

Indeed, even if some were not to get the jobs that the company was setting them up for, Grow claimed it had a contingency plan for them (to be revealed at a later date).

On March 31, the workers strike back, saying…

Days later, the striking workers released a rather communiqué.

Everything had changed. Conversations between the parties had broken down. The workers’ claims contrasted with much of what Álvarez said to Contxto. They even went as far as to point to instances of discrimination by their HR reps.

Here are the main points of contention, as stated by the workers’ publication, in the negotiations that followed.

  1. The replacement jobs the workers are being “channeled” to only “cover positions for 50 percent of our members.”
  2. After a four-person representative workers’ committee was formed, the workers were offered 10 days’ pay covering the time passed since their last paycheck, as well as 21 additional day’s salary.
  3. The committee rejected this offer.
  4. The next day a final offer with an additional day’s salary was made by the company and again rejected.

Things got worse from there.

The workers’ statement went on to say that as negotiations failed, tensions grew and the tone of Grow‘s negotiators grew more uneasy.

Grow‘s CEO was called and he informed the workers that there would be no further offer. They, in turn, informed management and the world that they would continue their occupation of Grin premises indefinitely.

Grow‘s staff then called the police and claimed that they were being kidnapped by the workers. The workers denied this, and claim to have avoided charged by proving that the accusations were untrue with the use of footage they had been taking.

The workers then countered that they had been subject to classist abuse from one of Grow HR employees.

For now, the situation on the ground seems to have calmed down, but the declaration has categorically stated that the occupation of Grow‘s offices would continue until the workers’ demands are satisfied.

The uncertain view from Contxto

The situation is clearly volatile and unclear. Much of what we have been told by both sides does not quite add up. We have consequently decided to relate to you both versions of the story until there is enough evidence to clarify and analyze the entire situation.

But there is value in keeping you updated, even as events slowly come to light in this very unfortunate round of “he said she said”. In times of crisis, no one can afford such miscommunication.

We are in for an economic depression and many founders, startups, and businesses generally will be facing challenges like these. We hope for you to be able to handle them in a better way.

In Grow Mobility‘s case, let us hope that both the labor force and employers quickly come to terms that are mutually satisfactory so that everyone can get on to shoring up for the coming storm.

Meanwhile, we, as always, promise to keep in close contact with you as events unfold. 

Related articles: Tech and startups from Mexico!

-AG

Alejandro González Ormerod
Historian, writer, and editor from Mexico City. He was a book publisher, academic, and cheesemonger before joining Contxto. Still deciding on which Latin American country to visit next; food and fun are the main criteria.

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