Bicycle couriers protest against takeaway food service Deliveroo
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Bicycle couriers working for takeaway service Deliveroo have been protesting in Paris, Bordeaux and Lyon against the elimination of their hourly rate and the company's decision to pay per-delivery only.
Around 50 couriers gathered on the Place de la République in central Paris on Friday evening to protest against the new remuneration system, following protests earlier this month in the two other French cities. In Bordeaux, the couriers also approached the restaurants that Deliveroo works with to ask for their support.
Deliveroo, which employs 7,500 bikers in France and collaborates with 3,000 restaurants, will pay all its bikers per delivery - €5.75 in Paris and €5 outside the capital – starting in September. Those who do not accept the new terms will lose their job.
When Deliveroo, a UK start-up, opened a subsidiary in France in 2015, it paid its couriers an hourly rate of €7.50, plus €2, €3 or €4 per delivery, according to various criteria. In September 2016, it began paying new couriers by delivery only, but allowed those who had been working for the company since 2015 to stick with the old system.
On July 27, longstanding employees were informed by email that the old system was ending and that they, too, would be paid per delivery only.
The emailed letter from the general manager of Deliveroo France, signed simply as Hugues, said that the per-delivery scheme was designed to “maximise” the couriers' “freedom”. The company claims that the bikers can earn an average of €14.00 per hour.
However, dozens of couriers have expressed anger at the changes to the way they are paid, which they believe puts them in a precarious situation.
Lack of financial security and physical danger
“Having no financial security makes me afraid,” Nacim Moulla, who has been working for Deliveroo in Paris for 18 months, told FRANCE 24. “In July, on my old contract, I was paid to do five hours’ work in one evening even though I only had three deliveries. Because I was being paid €7.50 per hour, I had a guaranteed remuneration.”
Under the new contract, Moulla – one of many students who work part-time at Deliveroo to help finance their studies – would earn €17.25 for three deliveries, rather than €37.50 for five hours’ work, plus delivery bonuses. “With this new contract, I don’t know how much I’ll earn in September,” Moulla added. “But if you disagree, Deliveroo terminates your contract. They don’t care about losing a courier because they’re recruiting 10 others at the same time.”
The lack of a guaranteed, hourly income has other implications. “The number of hours multiplied by €7.50 provided a basic income and we could get housing with that,” he says, referring to many landlords' practice of requiring proof of revenue before leasing their property.
Some of the couriers being paid under the new system are unperturbed by the per-delivery scheme, as they speed around trying to make as many deliveries as possible. “Having worked for Foodora, which pays an hourly €7.50 plus €2 per delivery, I can say that I prefer the per-delivery scheme because it’s more advantageous if you do three or four orders in an hour,” Thomas Depasse told FRANCE 24.
But Jérôme Pimot, co-founder of the Collectif des Livreurs Autonomes de Paris (CLAP) a collective of independent delivery people, believes that the lack of an hourly rate increases the pressure to cycle fast, and therefore increases the risk for accidents. “This means that you’re paid to go fast in Paris, in a hyper-urban and hyper-hostile universe,” Pimot, a former courier, told TV channel France3.
Arthur Hay, secretary of the CGT union of bicycle couriers in the Gironde, near Bordeaux, has called for the hourly contract to be reinstated as an optional payment scheme.
“We want a power of negotiation because our demands are never listened to,” Hay told French daily L’Humanité. “Before sitting down at a table with them, we want the complete cancellation of this decision to eliminate the hourly contracts and [a clause stating that] the couriers have the choice between the €5 [delivery] contract or the hourly contract.”
He added that the couriers, who have an independent “auto-entrepreneur” status, needed the protection of a union in order to argue for better working conditions. The "auto-entrepreneur" status was implemented in 2009 by former president Nicolas Sarkozy to offer an alternative to the traditional salary system, liberating people to operate as independent workers and freeing up companies to hire collaborators without offering them a contract.
‘Macronisation’ of workplace
Several observers have taken to social media to criticise Deliveroo’s payment scheme, believing that the couriers will earn less than the minimum hourly wage of €9.76.
“It’s Macronisation! Sorry! Uberisation,” wrote David Foit, a left-wing activist, referring to French President Emmanuel Macron’s views on the free market economy and to the Uber car service.
Indeed, Macron has vowed to create more opportunities for international start-ups. "We want the pioneers, the innovators, the entrepreneurs of the whole world to come to France and work with us on green technologies, food technologies, artificial intelligence, on all the possible innovation,” he said at a Paris gadget show called Vivatech in June, according to AP. “I want France to be a nation that works with and for startups, and a nation that thinks and moves like a startup,” he added.
As Deliveroo’s couriers adjust to their new contracts, observers are keen to see how working conditions may change during Macron’s presidency.