As couriers, just as it usually occurs for any other occupation, we often assume people know a lot about what we do, so we only explain very specific details or events, I would like to bring clarity into what a Foodora bike rider does:
To begin our shift we gear up and head for the center of Helsinki, we need to be within a specific area and in a 15 min time window prior to our scheduled time to be able to start the shift, then we wait for orders, sometimes orders come immediately one after another, sometimes we wait for hours, sometimes you wish for a break as you may get tired from going up and down from one extreme of the city to the other, sometimes you would really like to have more orders instead of just waiting there fidgeting with your phone, as they factor as about 40% of your total income.
When you get an order your clock starts ticking, you are timed for every possible data indicator the system can get through your phone, time to get to the restaurant, waiting for the food to be ready, bringing the food to the client’s proximity and, finally, delivering the food to the client after accessing the building and walking up the stairs if needed.
New order, clock begins ticking again, this information is then used to compare your performance to the rest of the freelancers, it differentiates us according to a batch system those with better KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) have good chances for acquiring shifts – which are limited and booked every Wednesday for the upcoming week – perhaps even suit them smoothly into their schedule; on the other hand, riders with lower KPIs will usually pick any shift they can get, often having to reschedule personal events, there is also the chance of not finding any shift as all of them have already been taken, your weekly income is zero, without shifts you have little chances to find shifts next week. It is pretty logical, effective system, however, Is this an acceptable business relation between human beings?
Most of the couriers work under freelance-contracts, which means that they are themselves responsible for pensions, insurances and for maintaining their own bikes or cars, while having no sick pay or any guarantees against illness or accidents. More so, Foodora removed recently also the rider space, where couriers could change, warm up, eat, go to the toilet and repair their bikes. And in case you’re wondering, yes, couriers ride the year round in Finland.
Even though the couriers work under obligations equivalent to those of employees, by keeping them as freelancers Foodora externalizes risks and costs of production to them, while taking no responsibility for its workers. The Foodora couriers are no independent entrepreneurs or “delivery partners”, as Foodora puts it, in any meaningful sense of the term.
This is not something new that the so-called #gigeconomy has invented, but a return to early capitalism, where workers had no or minimal rights, benefits and guarantees. Those rights that we now take for granted were won through long struggles. So don’t let capital to circumvent them by using freelance contracts.
This not only about couriers or just about companies trying to break mutually agreed rules of employment. This is about a large legal and political-economic question of how work is organized. If one employer can externalize costs by circumventing responsibilities with forced sham entrepreneurship, others will follow. And those others are also your employers.
Because an injury to one is an injury to all.
Ex-Foodora Courier, Helsinki Bike Messenger and Postdoc Researcher Tuomas Tammisto
Foodora couriers and drivers in cooperation with Vapaa syndikaatti and Vastavoima launch a campaign to repeal recent pay cuts and improve working conditions at Foodora in Finland. Our demands are as follows:
1) Repeal the recent pay cuts 2) Fair and transparent shift allocation and possibility for guaranteed hours 3) Reinstate the rider space for couriers and drivers 4) Equipment compensation and insurance against accidents and illness 5) Possibility for an employment contract
We formally start the campaign today on Thursday September 6 by handing our demands in person to Foodora at the Foodora HQ in Helsinki (Kaivokatu 10) at 14:00. During the hand-over we will organize a small demonstration in front of Foodora’s office, read out our demands and courier experiences.