In July 2018 Foodora cut the pay of couriers, thereby worsening the already precarious situation of its couriers. Foodora couriers along with Vapaa Syndikaatti and Vastavoima demand that the paycuts are repealed and that the working conditions are improved. The campaign starts on Thursday September 6 at 14:00 when the couriers’ demands are handed over to Foodora at the Foodora HQ (Kaivokatu 10).
The demands are as follows:
1) Repeal the recent pay cuts
2) Fair and transparent shift allocation and possibility for guaranteed hours
3) Reinstate the rider space for couriers and drivers
4) Equipment compensation and insurance against accidents and illness
5) Possibility for an employment contract
Foodora has claimed that under the new agreement, which reduces the hourly pay and increases the delivery provision, couriers can earn more. This is not true: the small increase in the delivery provision simply cannot cover the larger decrease of the hourly wage, and hence the new agreement is effectively a pay cut. As per the new agreement, cyclists can be on the streets earning as little as 7 euros per hour.
Shifts are allocated according to courier “performance”, as measured by an algorithm based on how fast, how often and when they can work. This penalizes couriers, who for example have missed shifts due to sudden illness. A courier has to announce 24 hours beforehand if they cannot work their shift. This does not take into account the possibility of sudden illness, especially in the physically demanding work of a courier or other sudden hindrances, such as the illness of a child. Foodora must therefore return to a form of shift allocation that does not punish couriers for illness and which can guarantee at least some shifts for everyone.
Foodora used to have a rider space for its couriers and drivers, but it was closed as the Foodora HQ moved to a new location. Foodora must also re-instate a shared rider space for the couriers and drivers, where they can change clothes, store their belongings, eat, warm up, go to the toilet and repair their bikes. These are all essential things for couriers, who work outside on their bicycles, often in very adverse weather conditions.
By calling the couriers “delivery partners”, Foodora is deliberatelly confusing its true relation to its workers, which is one of employment. Foodora gives out the shifts, couriers are not able to decline orders during their shift, they work on an area demarcated by Foodora, they have to wear company uniforms and they cannot give their shifts to third parties. This shows that Foodora couriers are not “delivery partners” or independent contractors, but workers working under the control of the employer in a relation that for all intents and purposes is one of employment. By obfuscating this relation, Foodora is trying to escape from the responsibilities assigned to an employer. It is thus an attempt to circumvent mutually agreed rules of work.
This campaign to improve the working conditions of Foodora couriers is linked to larger social and political questions relating to working conditions and the labour market. If workers are substituted by freelance contracts and sham entrepreneurship, is the whole concept of employment and workers’ rights in danger of losing its meaning. It would mean a return into a model where all the responsibilities are borne by the workers, the insurances once associated with employment are lost and the position of workers becomes again more precarious. To demand that Foodora takes responsibility for its workers is not only a struggle of the couriers, but it concerns us all.