Companies accused of exploiting food couriers will be barred from hiring workers until investigations into exploitation claims are carried out, Employment Minister Byron Camilleri told parliament on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, workers who are making these allegations and feel uncomfortable working with their current employers will be helped to find alternative employment, he said.

Camilleri was speaking after a meeting held earlier on Tuesday between JobsPlus, the Department for Industrial and Employment Relations, and several food couriers involved in the strikes.

Some 60 workers are believed to have attended the meeting, which was held behind closed doors.

“We ensured that there was no media present during the meeting because we wanted the workers to feel free to make their voices heard,” Camilleri said.

Food couriers, who are typically third-country nationals, are employed by fleet operating companies that have service supply deals with delivery platforms like Bolt Food and Wolt.  

These platforms then pay fleet operators for courier services, with operators then paying couriers. 

Couriers say that while on paper their income is guaranteed, in reality they are only given a cut of delivery rates. 

Hundreds of such food couriers went on strike in recent days, saying that their income was dramatically impacted after Bolt slashed its weekend delivery rates. They say that as a result they are working 18-hour days to earn as little as €3 an hour - less than the national minimum wage.

Camilleri backed the strike, warning employment agencies that they ought not “dare” fire workers who were striking.

Byron Camilleri speaking about the strike on Monday. Video: Matthew Mirabelli

He repeated this warning in parliament on Tuesday, describing the exploitation and abuse of workers as “unacceptable”.

“We believe in workers’ rights and we won’t allow anyone to abuse them, regardless of who the worker or employer is,” he said.

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