A comprehensive report conducted by the Foundation for European Progressive Studies has shed light on concerning labor practices within the rapid grocery sector. According to the report, major players such as Getir, Deliveroo Hop, and Gorillas have transitioned from guaranteed hours and permanent contracts for couriers to zero-hour contracts, rendering performance-related bonuses unattainable.
The study, which included interviews with workers across Europe, also revealed a disregard for contractual entitlements, such as rest breaks and paid holidays. Workers in the sector have experienced deteriorating conditions while investors have become increasingly hesitant to allocate further capital to rapid grocery ventures.
Steve Rolf, one of the report’s authors, commented on the troubling situation, stating, “The shaky foundations of q-commerce are driving a desperate attempt to forge ‘paths to profitability’. Unfortunately, these are being pursued on the backs of workers in the sector.”
While the rapid grocery industry had initially distinguished itself by offering set hours and performance-based bonuses, the research uncovered a concerning erosion of employment contracts. Hourly pay reductions, the transition to zero-hour contracts, and unattainable performance incentives were prevalent across the sector.
Instances of summary dismissals and the abuse of probation periods were also widespread, leaving workers vulnerable to the whims of their employers. As one rider expressed during an interview for the study, “We are abused in so many ways. You have to fight for everything.”
In response to the report, Getir stated that it would introduce zero-hour “worker status” contracts to provide more flexibility for couriers, based on their feedback and to attract new colleagues. However, it emphasized that it does not offer or utilize gig contracts.
Quaid Combstock, a quick-commerce consultant and former head of delivery operations at Jiffy, explained that many rapid delivery companies were now looking to move beyond zero-hour contracts and revert to gig contracts. He highlighted a significant difference between these types of contracts, noting that gig workers are not entitled to minimum wages, holiday pay, or pension contributions. Instead, they are typically compensated on an assignment basis, receiving payment per order. This arrangement benefits companies by reducing their financial risk but poses a significant threat to gig workers who often rely on each paycheck.
Combstock further noted that rapid delivery companies have been emboldened by the UK government’s perceived lack of action in implementing regulations to protect gig-economy workers, despite promises made in 2019.
Additional research conducted by Workers Info Exchange revealed that app couriers, including rapid grocery riders and those working for food delivery platforms, are struggling to earn more than they did a year ago. A staggering 74% of respondents disagreed or strongly disagreed that their earnings had increased compared to previous years. Furthermore, approximately 60% of those surveyed stated that their earnings from delivering food did not cover their basic needs. Moreover, 81% confirmed that courier work constituted their primary source of income.
Combstock emphasized the need for companies to bear the costs of fair pay or face consequences, stating, “I would suggest that if companies are unable to pass on the costs of fair pay to consumers, then the company should cease to exist.”
The findings of these reports raise concerns about the treatment and working conditions of couriers in the rapid grocery sector and underscore the pressing need for stronger labor protections and regulations to ensure fair and sustainable practices within the industry.