The truth about paying for food couriers

Henry Dean works for Deliveroo in addition to his full-time apprenticeship

A rise in the popularity of app-based food delivery businesses has led to an increasingly competitive food courier workforce, according to a new BBC documentary.

Life in the Fast-Food Lane follows three food couriers as they embark on delivery teams in Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield.

Food couriers are generally self-employed, which means they are only paid for the deliveries they make and do not receive a guaranteed hourly wage.

Henry Dean, 23, works full time as an apprentice in Liverpool but also delivers food on his bike for Deliveroo in the evenings.

He said: “Deliveroo is something I do on a weekend to supplement the income I get from work, which as an apprentice is quite a low pay. I tend to use it [the Deliveroo income] for grocery shopping.

In the business, Mr Dean is self-employed and can earn several pounds for every delivery he makes, with longer trips earning him more.

During filming, Henry was on duty for two and a half hours and delivered four orders.

He earned £18 at that time, equivalent to £7.20 an hour, below the UK national living wage of £9.50 an hour.

His first order of the night took him 25 minutes and brought him £3.42, the smallest amount he had received all evening.

Another delivery later paid £6.96, his highest charge of the night, and also took 25 minutes.

A Deliveroo courier

Deliveroo said its aim was to work with enough riders to deliver the expected number of orders

Despite the potential to earn higher fees for orders, Mr. Dean earns nothing by waiting between deliveries.

“You’re going to be waiting like an hour, two hours and nothing. You want to be there delivering orders and you’re not able to – it gets a little frustrating,” he explained.

In a statement, Deliveroo said it had recently announced a “voluntary partnership agreement” with GMB Union which makes it clear that riders are guaranteed to earn at least the national living wage plus costs when placing an order.

They added: “Our goal is to work with enough runners to be able to deliver the expected number of orders while ensuring we don’t have too many runners in one area, so runners retain revenue. attractive.”

Bassam Qaid

Bassam Qaid said rising fuel prices had a ripple effect

Bassam Qaid, 44, a father-of-two from Sheffield, also works as a self-employed food delivery driver. He works for the delivery company Stuart, subcontractor of Just Eat.

He works full time and since his early days in the industry he has noticed how excessive his hours are.

“I work seven days now, sometimes I work 70 hours,” Mr Qaid said.

During filming, he earned £65.85 in eight and a half hours. His earnings, equivalent to £7.75 an hour, were therefore also part of the National Living Wage.

The cost of living crisis is also having a big impact on couriers and the recent rise in fuel costs means that Mr Qaid spends around a fifth of his average income on fuel alone.

“Before, you could fill the tank twice a week with £80. Fuel for each week is now between £125 and £120,” he said.

In a statement, Stuart said their wages exceeded the National Living Wage for the time couriers spend on a delivery, adding: “Stuart is committed to paying the equivalent of the National Living Wage for couriers while they are working. actively on the platform.”

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) said during the cost of living crisis that ‘courier companies continue to overhire workers while paying very low fees’.

IWGB President Alex Marshall said: “Most companies don’t pay anything for the time couriers spend waiting for a job.”

He added that labor “often struggles to earn minimum wage in real terms.”

However, some delivery companies are trying to disrupt the industry and provide more security for couriers.

Viktória on his bike for his evening service

Viktória Klimentová said her contract with Foodstuff gave her a bit more security

Viktória Klimentová, 28, is a Manchester-based food courier employed by food delivery platform Foodstuff.

She works casually in addition to her full-time day job and is paid £10 an hour regardless of how many deliveries she makes per shift.

“We get paid whether we deliver or not. So if it’s a quiet night, we still get paid, which is good for us,” she said.

When the BBC’s We Are England crew filmed Ms Klimentová she earned around £25 and that security of earning a guaranteed wage through food courier was one she would like to see replicated elsewhere.

She said: “It would be nice if all the food couriers had a contract – [it] gives them a bit more stability and security.”

In a statement to the BBC, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “The government has a strong track record of protecting and strengthening workers’ rights across the UK.

“We are committed to building a high-skilled, high-productivity, high-wage economy that delivers on our ambition to make the UK the best place in the world to work. This includes ensuring that workers’ rights are strongly protected by promoting a dynamic and flexible labor market.”

Life in the Fast Food Lane airs 28 October at 7.30pm BST on BBC One and will then be available on BBC iPlayer

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Michael A. Bynum