How couriers are controlled during their shifts

suomeksi / Facebook

We have noted several times that the main problem for the couriers at Foodora and Wolt is that they have no employment contracts, but work under freelance agreements. This agreement shifts the riks of entrepreneurship to the workers and helps the employees to circumvent their legal responsibilities.

In practice this means that the Foodora and Wolt couriers pay out of their fees themselves the side expenses of work, such as pensions, possible insurances, their gear and the maintenance of their vehicles. Maintaining a bike used in work is expensive, not to speak of cars and fuel. As freelancers, the couriers do not have the right to sick pay, they have no protection against termination and their pay can be cut with unilateral announcements—as both Foodora and Wolt have done.

Both companies argue that the freelance-agreements provide “flexibility” and claim that this benefits the couriers, who can work freely and do not have to commit to fixed weekly hours. This argument has two mistakes: first, flexibility and the security of employment do not rule each other out and second, couriers in the platform economy are not allowed to work freely. In this text we explain why.

Flexibility, meaning that the workers does not need to commit to do, or the employer to offer, shifts, can be achieved with zero hour contracts. This is a common arrangement for example in retail, where employers can offer shifts to workers with very little forewarning and where the workers do not need to accept the shifts. This arrangement provides the flexibility that Foodora and Wolt say benefts especially youths and students. At the same time it provides basic security for the employee: the employer pays the side expenses, the employee has a right to sick pay and they have the necessary insurances. In other words, the employers bears the minimal responsibility of their workers. Foodora and Wolt do not want this, but they attempt to reduce costs by shifting the expenses to the couriers.

The companies also argue that freelancer contracts give the workers the freedom to work independently. Someone who is truly self-employed chooses when and how to work. The couriers of wolt and Foodora however are during their shifts under the tight control of the companies. During their shifts, the couriers cannot decline orders given to them by the dispatchers (actual persons or algorithms). The couriers must ask for breaks and the dispatchers decide when they can take them. For example in the attached screenshot, a Foodora dispatcher tells the courier that they cannot have a lunch break at the moment. Also Wolt dispatchers carefully monitor the location of the courier and directs where the courier needs to be.

One Wolt courier told that the surveillance is so precise that when three Wolt couriers were in the same place waiting for orders, the dispatcher phoned them, asked if they were having a meeting and told them to disperse and wait for orders in separate locations. Foodora for example explicitly forbids the couriers to smoke, because it runs counter to their “brand image”. This is not the freedom of self-employment, but work work conducted from a dependent position and under the control of others, namely an arrangement that fulfils the criteria of employment.

“Flexibility” in the case of Foodora and Wolt means only that the couriers must act like employees without rights, while the companies shift the risk of entrepreneurship to couriers and deny them the freemdom of actual entrepreneurs.

Our expert statement to the parliamentary Employment & Equality committee


The parliamentary Employment and Equality committee invited us to be heard at a committee meeting last November. In our expert statement we explained what work as a courier in the “platform economy” is, what its problems are and how these problems can in our opinion be solved.

Working as a courier in the platform economy

The drivers and bicycle couriers (henceforth only “couriers”) of Foodora and Wolt work under freelancer-contracts. This means that they are not in the formal position of an employee, and hence have not the minimal security, such as protections against summary lay-offs, sick pay or insurances, and other employment rights. For example in accident cases the couriers are left on their own devices with not support from the company. The couriers receive no salary, but gross pay, out of which they pay themselves the side expenses, such as pensions, and the maintenance of their vehicles, fuel, phones and gear with the exception of backpacks.

Freelancer couriers work however under conditions that fulfill the criteria of an employment relation. The companies set the time and duration of the shifts and oversees that couriers start and end their shifts on time. The couriers are not allowed to decline orders during their shifts, the dispatchers, who are company employees, direct the couriers in their work, the companies define the customers and the working area of the couriers and the couriers cannot negotiate the delivery prices. In the case of Foodora, the freelance couriers do exactly the same work as the minority of employed couriers. Wolt has never offered the possibility of being employed as courier.

Food couriers are employees

The work of the food couriers fulfills the criteria of an employment relation, but the couriers have only the responsibilities of an employee without the associate rights. Conversely, the freelance couriers have all the risks of the self-employed, but not the freedom of a genuine freelancer. For example those couriers who work as genuine entrepreneurs can refuse orders that are not financially feasible and define their own working practices. Foodora and Wolt couriers do not have this option.

Foodora and Wolt have shifted the entrepreneur risks to the couriers. Foodora, Wolt and similar companies abroad, such as Deliveroo, UberEATS and Glovo, are not “platforms”, but transport and logistics companies that have specialized in food delivery and employers. By de facto employing workers they differ significantly from “sharing platforms”, such as the apartment sharing AirBnB. Foodora management admitted that they had misclassified couriers as freelancers in Australia. In Norway and Germany Foodora couriers are employees due to legal restrictions. Recently in the Netherlands the court declared that Deliveroo couriers are employees and that the national collective agreement of the logistics and transport sector has to apply to them.

Suggestions of the Justice4Couriers campaign

1. Existing labor legislation in Finland must be overseen and implemented more strictly so that employer responsibilities are not circumvented with sham entrepreneurship or fake freelancing.

2. Legislation must be changed: our campaign supports the suggestion of an employment assumption. The default must be that those who work for companies are employees and when this is not the case, it is up to the buyer of work to show that it is not an employment relation.

3. The position of genuine freelancers and self-employed on the labor market must be improved. They should have the right to collective negotiations of working conditions and social security must be improved to cover different forms of work.

These three suggestions are not mutually exclusive, but mutually reinforcing. In many sectors, such as in journalism, translation and transport, there are genuine freelancers, whose position must be improved. We call for making genuine self-employment easier and prevent the abuse of freelance contracts to circumvent employer responsibilities.

We acknowledge that Foodora and Wolt provide low-threshold entry into the labor market, especially for those who may have difficulties in finding employment due to the language barrier for instance. We by no means want these companies to fail, we like our work as couriers and we acknowledge its social importance. However, we want fair working conditions especially for those who otherwise are in a vulnerable position. Courier work is physically demanding and dangerous, we do not demand the impossible, but the same rights as other workers.


We won break spaces for Foodora couriers

suomeksi / Facebook

Today we have achieved our first immediate aim as Foodora announced that it will provide break spaces to its couriers. Couriers need brake spaces, especially in countries like Finland, where the weather conditions can be tough.

Foodora Finland shutdown courier break spaces in Helsinki the late autumn of 2017 and in Tampere a year later, just before winter. Back then, couriers protested this measure and tried to address it internally by telling the Foodora management, that couriers absolutely need break space, but to no avail. When we started our campaign a year later, we demanded that Foodora reinstates the break spaces, and now finally, during the second winter with no place to change, eat or go to the toilet, Foodora gave in to our demand. We are confident that getting back the break spaces was a result of courier campaigning.

We are very pleased that Foodora has taken this step toward its couriers in Helsinki. We hope that Foodora will provide break spaces to couriers in other cities as well and that other crucial issues, such as the lack of insurances, sick pay and employment rights, will be addressed as well. We hope that Foodora will start negotiations with its couriers to improve working conditions at the company. We also want to remind that Wolt, the other platform courier company, has never had a break space for its couriers, who need one as well. In this matter, Wolt should follow the example of Foodora.

This victory also shows that couriers, who on their own are in a precarious position, are strong when they come together and organize!

We support the demands by AV-translators

The Union of Journalists in Finland (UJF) and the Akava Special Branches (ASB) have issued a strike notice by audiovisual translators regarding the failure of talks on a new collective bargaining agreement. According to the unions, the biggest the main point of difference are the fees paid to self-employed translators that the employers do not want to include in the collective bargainining agreement. According to Petri Savolainen from UJF, 80% of translators cannot influence the prices of translation. Helena Lampinen from ASB further notes that the disagreement concerns more widely the position of self-employed that are dependent on their clients, namely virtual or sham entrepreneurs, and their part in collective bargaining. The strike notice is the first of its kind, namely issued by the self-employed, in Finland.

As couriers working mostly under freelance agreements, we fully support the demands by the AV-translators and their possible strike action. Like the AV-translators and the unions note, the disagreement concerns all the self-employed, freelancers and sham entrepreneurs dependent on their client companies. Bringing the fees paid to the self-employed within collective bargaining agreements would is important to secure the livelihoods of the self-emplyoed and prevents for its part the circumvention of employer responsibilities and the deflation of the price of work through freelance contracts.

We support the demands by AV-translators, because also in the transport sector there are numerous car and bicycle couriers working as sham entrepreneurs dependent on the companies for their income. As we have noted in our campaign, the problem concerns not only couriers or translators, but the self-employed working in several sectors and ultimately is a question of how and under what conditions is work in our society done and how are workers granted their minimum security.

Recruitment at Foodora and Wolt

Due to the vast amount of open shifts Foodora has been aggressively recruiting new couriers to its ranks. Because the demand for workforce is so high at the moment, the company has been speeding up the recruiting process by abolishing the test rides of courier candidates. But it’s not just Foodora, also Wolt is trying to cut the costs by abridging the introduction of new couriers.

Previously people willing to work as Foodora’s couriers would fill the application on the company’s website and then sign up for a test ride if they were picked. The practices have changed several times, in the beginning you’d be invited to an interview and introduction and then later do practice deliveries to see if you could handle the work well enough. Then later it was changed so that you’d follow your rider captain picking up and delivering tasks and they would show you how the applications work, where restaurants are and how you are expected to encounter restaurant staff and customers. You’d get an idea about how fast-paced the work is when you tried to keep up with your captain navigating through the city. Then came the “go from a to b and take a selfie when you get to the location” -option, which only measured the courier candidate’s ability to move fast enough from one place to another. Now the new couriers receive barely any introduction.

Wolt has been following this trend by getting rid of introduction rides that courier candidates took with senior couriers who would show them how to use the app, where some of the restaurants are and how to communicate with restaurant staff as well as customers. Now, just like at Foodora, there is only a video the new couriers watch and that is supposedly enough for training for work that requires skill, strength as well as understanding of the city plan and how to navigate there.

It seems that these companies are outsourcing the briefing to other couriers, perhaps short-sightedly expecting to save from costs and the precious worktime of the rider captains. New couriers are thrown into the field even without basic knowledge on how to use the applications, how to manage shifts, log in and accept deliveries, communicate with the dispatchers or even where and how you are expected to work. We see rookies constantly asking same questions in group chats about things that should be obvious to anyone who has received an adequate introduction to the work.

Adopting the mindset of a courier takes time. You need to memorize the routes, shortcuts, different practices in different restaurants, where to find the backdoors and elevators, which roads are good and which are bad, which routes to take to avoid traffic lights and which streets are one-way, where to park and how to avoid parking fees. Both cyclists and car drivers need to learn how to survive in terrible weather like we’ve seen lately. When people are asked to work from home, because the driving conditions are so bad, couriers are on the streets pushing through the snow and slush delivering food to those ones at the comfort of their homes.

To be a good courier it takes time, skill and motivation. It’s not something you learn by watching a 5-minute video.

These companies thrive on inequality. When the rate of unemployment is high and there are others who’s place on the job market is low, it’s a guarantee for companies like Wolt and Foodora to have a constant stream of new couriers coming in. The turnover rate in these companies is high and most of the couriers only work for a few weeks. Why bother to introduce them properly and motivate and support your couriers when you can just constantly hire new people? Surely this affects the quality of the service and delivery times, but who cares as long as the companies make money. When the money flow stops the companies migrate elsewhere

We support the employment assumption

suomeksi / Facebook

From the point of view of a courier working for a platform company, the employment assumption is a sorely needed reform that would bring the working conditions and legal situation of those forced to work as sham entrepreneurs on par with the minimum standards as required by labor legislation. Even though the law is in fact very clear — if work is done in a dependent position, one is not an entrepreneur — in practice nobody guarantees the legal protection of platform workers or other sham entrepreneurs.

There is a regulatory vacuum in the growing platform economy in Finland. The companies working in the field take shamelessly advantage of people in a vulnerable position, especially that of migrants, and their need to take on work under any conditions. Due to this vulnerable position, the platform workers have to bear the costs of both entrepreneurship and employment without the benefits of either.

For example, the couriers working as sham entrepreneurs for Foodora and Wolt are completely subjected to the unquestionable control of the companies during their work. They are expected to behave in particular ways, wear company uniforms, while expected to cover from their small pay all the side expenses of their work from insurances to equipment and bear all the risks from illness, accidents and the uncertainty over the continuity of work.

In the Justice4couriers campaign we demand an end to the ruthless exploitation of the workforce and the circumvention of the labor legislation that was purposefully designed to protect workers. The platform economy and the companies using its methods are no great innovations as presented in myths. The great innovation is merely rhetorical; the treacherous definition of workers as independent contractors.

It is the responsibility of decision makers not to be overwhelmed by this development. If we want to call our country a welfare state that is just and fair and that respects the value of people, we must take control of this development and bring it into the sphere of proper regulation.

No flexibility for drivers or couriers

suomeksi / Facebook

In the past few weeks, it has snowed much in Finland. Up to the point that the police has on the worst days recommended that those who have the option, work from home, because road conditions have been bad. Still, couriers and drivers—whom Foodora and Wolt class as independent contractors or “delivery partners”—need to work.

On one of the days with the heaviest snow, the car of a Foodora driver was stuck in snow, and they could not make it to their shift. As the driver could not cancel the shift 24 hours in advance, they received a “no show”, which will make it harder to receive shifts in the future. When the driver asked the “no show” to be revoked, as they could not make it, because their car would not move, Foodora refused, because the driver could have ordered tow truck—at the driver’s expense.

The couriers and drivers have the responsibilities and obligations of an employee, they cannot refuse orders that financially do not make sense to them, they cannot miss shifts and they have to work according to the direction of the dispatchers. However, they have none of the rights of an employee, and if they are injured, fall ill or their vehicles break down, Foodora and Wolt do not take any responsibility. By expecting the drivers and couriers to behave like employees, but denying them the rights of employees, and denying them the freedom of freelancers, Foodora and Wolt try to have it both ways.

The “flexibility” that Foodora and Wolt advertise as a benefit of the freelancer contract is only beneficial for the companies.

Deliveroo couriers strike in the UK

Yesterday Deliveroo couriers in the United Kingdom went—again—on strike for better pay and basic worker rights. Like Foodora and Wolt couriers, our colleagues at Deliveroo are denied pensions, sick pay, insurances and work in danger conditions for poor pay.

“Every time we have struck, we have won better pay. They’re the Empire, and we’re the Rebels. And this is the moment where we just found out there is a hole in the Death Star. Without us, they don’t have an app.”

Courier Strike 1st Feb 2019!

Why couriers like Deliveroo riders are going on strike!To donate to the strike fund click here: helps! (ˆ˚ˆ)/

Posted by Bristol Couriers Network on Friday, February 1, 2019