Instacart gig workers threaten walkoff over virus safety

San Francisco (AFP) –


A group claiming to represent gig workers for grocery delivery startup Instacart called for a walkout next week if the company fails to provide coronavirus hazard pay and needed safety supplies.

The threat came Friday as Instacart announced new health and safety measures including bonuses for in-store shopping and providing two weeks pay to hourly employees or full-time shoppers diagnosed with COVID-19 or quarantined by authorities.

A Medium post signed by shoppers with the group calling itself the Gig Workers Collective accused Instacart of "profiting astronomically off of us literally risking our lives, all while refusing to provide us with effective protection, meaningful pay and meaningful benefits."

It was not immediately clear how many Instacart shoppers the group represented.

The move comes amid surging volume by the delivery startup seeking to meet demands of consume ring sheltering in place due to the pandemic.

"The health and safety of our entire community -- shoppers, customers, and employees -- is our first priority," Instacart said in response to an AFP inquiry.

"Our goal is to offer a safe and flexible earnings opportunity to shoppers, while also proactively taking the appropriate precautionary measures to operate safely."

Instacart this week announced plans to double the ranks of "shoppers" who fill orders in North America as people hunker down to reduce coronavirus risk.

The San Francisco based firm said it wants to add another 300,000 "full-service shoppers" during the coming three months to meet soaring demand for grocery delivery or pick-up.

Instacart is part of the "gig economy" and serves as a platform connecting people seeking grocery deliveries with those willing to handle the task for a fee.

Although Instacart shoppers lack many of the advantages of regular employees, the company last year launched a program offering some benefits including accident insurance and access to health plans.

The walkout call said Instacart shoppers should abandon their posts on Monday and not return until their demands are met.

Instacart should provide shoppers with disinfectant wipes, soap, sanitizer and other protective gear, and kick in $5 per order hazard pay along with a 10 percent tip by default on purchases, according to the statement.

Also, guaranteed pay should be extended to shoppers with documentation from doctors saying they are at high risk or should self-quarantine because of the pandemic, the notice said.

"We believe there is no choice but to not only walk off," the message concluded.