Just East and Deliveroo riders among food couriers demanding better pay and conditions in South Yorkshire

Food couriers working for firms including Deliveroo and Just Eat in Sheffield are demanding better pay and conditions.

By Robert Cumber
Monday, 12 August, 2019, 14:11

Drivers and cyclists have mobilised to ensure they are guaranteed a fair minimum rate for each delivery and get paid for time spent waiting for food to be prepared and for jobs cancelled at the last minute by customers.

They are also calling on local authorities to help stop ‘unfair’ parking charges for drivers loading and unloading, and on delivery firms to do more to prevent them being abused on the job.

More than 30 riders in Sheffield and surrounding areas have united to form the South Yorkshire Couriers Network, with assistance from the IWGB trade union, in protest at what have been branded ‘archaic employment practices’.

Food couriers in South Yorkshire are campaigning for better pay and conditions

Members are planning a demonstration later this month and say they are prepared to take strike action if their demands are not met.

Greg Howard, of the union’s couriers branch, said: “The IWGB have worked closely with the South Yorkshire Couriers Network from its inception to continue our nationwide campaign to gain fair access to work for all and a fair wage which encompasses and covers expenses, so that couriers can live comfortably without worry.

“Nationally, couriers are facing challenges to their day-to-day work from the food delivery Goliaths like Deliveroo and Just Eat.

“Couriers networks across the country are organising to fight the precarious and exploitative nature of these archaic employment practices.”

Their six top demands are:

Assistance from councils to stop unfair parking charges on drivers who are loading or unloading

Restoration of the previous £4.25 minimum rate for orders

Both destinations to be revealed on a double order

Pay for time spent waiting for food to be prepared

Pay for jobs cancelled by the customer

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Deliveroo to do more to require customers and partner restaurants to treat riders respectfully.

Ibrahim Ali, 26, from Hillsborough, who has been working as a food courier for three years and recently graduated from Sheffield Hallam University with a degree in film and television production, is one of the group’s founding members.

“We’re taking action because over the last couple of years we’ve seen courier companies caring less about their employees and contractors and reducing pay as their businesses become more established,” he said.

“When I started the pay was much better because they were trying to establish themselves and were offering much more competitive rates, but now it’s getting much harder to make a living, especially for people with families to feed.

“They need to open a dialogue with drivers, who should be able to meet face to face to ensure our voices are heard.”

Mr Ali said he typically works 40-45 hours a week and earns £8 to £9 on average, before taking into account costs like petrol and insurance.

He added that the number of jobs drops dramatically when students are away during the holidays, when many couriers are forced to seek other employment.

He said he had been verbally abused a few times while making deliveries and that when customers complain drivers are barred from taking on jobs until an investigation is completed, which he believes is unfair.

Deliveroo said the amount it pays riders has increased overall, with recent changes rewarding those travelling furthest, though fees for some shorter distance orders have fallen.

The firm added that predicted wait times at restaurants were factored in to payments, and it claimed an increase in the proportion of orders being accepted by riders – from 52.5 per cent before the change to 54.5 per cent after – showed riders were more satisfied with the new pay structure.

A spokeswoman for the company said: “We've recently introduced changes that mean Deliveroo is investing even more in rider fees. This is good news for riders, with over 70 per cent of orders across the UK now offering a higher fee than they were before. Since making these changes riders in Sheffield are even earning more - £10.85 per hour on average.

“Rider feedback is hugely important to us. We regularly work with local councils to improve how riders work and park in local areas. We investigate all issues raised by any user of our platform including riders, restaurants and customers.

“We have a zero tolerance policy for any user who is abusive to others within our network or in the course of using our service. We regularly take action to remove those found to have been abusive.”

The Star has also contacted Just Eat, which has yet to respond.