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Lockdown heroes: couriers get Moscow monument

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Moscow (AFP)

A group of Russian e-commerce companies said Friday they had erected a monument in Moscow thanking couriers for helping people through the coronavirus lockdown.

The tribute comes after some delivery workers, many of whom are impoverished migrants from Central Asia, protested against conditions they said were unfair.

Online shopping company Ozon, sometimes called the Russian Amazon, as well as several supermarkets and food delivery services said they clubbed together to put up the sculptural tribute in the south of the capital.

The metal monument designed by artist Alexei Garikovich features a cut-out silhouette of a figure holding a phone and standing next to a box.

An inscription on the pedestal says: "To those who made self-isolation possible."

The organisers said in a statement that they wanted to "highlight the contribution of those frontline workers who continued delivering essentials across the country."

In Moscow "there were more than 60,000 couriers working during the lockdown as demand for delivery services skyrocketed", they said.

Demand for online shopping, and couriers, soared during Russia's lockdown, which started in late March and gradually lifted from mid-May.

Many messengers used bicycles or scooters to navigate empty streets, delivering groceries, parcels and ready meals.

Couriers from one of the food services involved in the monument, Delivery Club, went on strike in June over an increase in the delivery radius from 3 to 5 kilometres (3.1 miles) for those without motorised transport as well as over financial penalties for those who failed to meet deadlines.

Delivery Club is owned by internet giant Mail.ru and national lender Sberbank.

In a video posted on Telegram messenger, striking couriers in the Moscow satellite town of Khimki shouted: "We're not robots! We're not slaves!"

Delivery Club said subsequently that it had dropped the increase in distance of deliveries and would not penalise those involved.

The head of the Union of Couriers of Russia, Ivan Vaiss, who has campaigned to improve conditions, described the monument as an "excellent gesture".

"It's hard to overestimate the contribution couriers make to people's lives in a big city, especially during a pandemic," he said.

He said he personally knew couriers who had contracted coronavirus, adding that the union's lawyers are working to get them compensation for days missed through illness.

The average monthly wage of a courier without a car in Moscow is around 34,000 rubles ($475.50), according to specialised websites, while those with cars can earn 50,000 rubles, depending on the number of deliveries.

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