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.