Valentine’s Day 2021 was a busy time for the food delivery trade. Because food delivery couriers working on apps like JustEat, Deliveroo and UberEats are all piece-rate workers, they rely on busy nights to make the bulk of their weekly or monthly earnings.
So it was a big problem for couriers that for a period of several hours on 14 February the Deliveroo rider app was down across at least much of the UK. When they logged in to get work on what should have been one of the best-paid nights of the year, they got a message saying “We’ll be back soon”. Many found themselves parked up or cycling around freezing streets waiting to be able to earn.
Deliveroo’s Rider Support page says that in the event of such an outage, they will make a “goodwill” payment of £10 normally or £15 at “super-peak” times (between the hours of 7 and 9). Exactly how much goodwill is communicated by paying a worker £10 to cover a night’s work which ought to have reaped as much as ten times that sum is for the reader to judge.
Deliveroo is set to float on the stock exchange as a publicly traded company this April. From a January valuation of US$7bn it is predicted to reach a value of around US$13bn when it floats.
The piece-rate system and spurious self-employment are throwbacks to Victorian-era exploitative practices. The so-called “gig economy” must be abolished to make way for secure, dignified work for all.