Gig economy giant branded ‘Scrooge’ after sacking over 100 couriers before Christmas

Deliveroo have 'terminated' riders' work, alleging fraud. But couriers say they have received no evidence or warning - and are unable to appeal.

Gig economy giant Deliveroo has ‘terminated’ at least 100 couriers’ contracts over the past week, in a move condemned as vindictive by union activists.

Mass terminations in cities across the UK have left over 100 ‘riders’ without work before Christmas, according to reports received by the IWW union. 

A wave of immediate terminations has covered towns and cities as far apart as Leicester, Sheffield and Glasgow.

Couriers have reported receiving identical emails accusing them of fraudulent activity and immediately terminating their agreement to deliver with the popular food delivery company.

The couriers themselves deny any accusation of any wrong-doing and have no way of appealing.

The IWW says they have been ‘left in the dark just days before Christmas with no work or way of appeal against these claims’.

‘Riders’ – those who deliver food for Deliveroo – say no evidence or facts to back up Deliveroo’s claims have been provided.

Jamie Johnson, a courier from Sheffield terminated by Deliveroo, said he was left in ‘absolute disbelief’ by the immediate termination:

“I have been falsely accused of defrauding the company by incorrectly marking orders ‘delivered’ without completing them despite being paid for them.

“Without any form of contact or warning throughout my time as a rider or any chance to defend my position, my account has been terminated effective immediately, leaving me in financial difficulty over the festive period.”

Deliveroo riders are classed as self-employed – a status confirmed by a tribunal ruling in November.

However, there has been increasing activism among gig economy workers, with a Court of Appeal ruling in favour of the IWGB union on Thursday, declaring drivers are entitled to workers’ rights.

Another terminated courier, Alex, said:

“Much like the 100’s of others in Leicester and thousands all over the country, I feel cheated by an ’employer’ who can’t give me a reason why. Now I have to find another way to pay my rent as this was my main source of income. Something has to be done.”

The ‘scale and spurious basis’ of the terminations has been condemned by the IWW Couriers Network, who are demanding that Deliveroo immediately reinstate all affected riders.

They are demanding full evidence for each termination to ensure no innocent couriers have their agreement terminated.

Chris Fear, a courier and lead organiser of the IWW Couriers Network said:

“This mass termination of couriers just days before Christmas is completely heartless. Hundreds of people across the country have lost their jobs, all receiving exactly the same template email.”

He said the firings were ‘Dickensian’ and compared Deliveroo boss Will Shu to ‘Scrooge’.

He told Left Foot Forward: “A lot [of those terminated] are veteran couriers who’ve been around quite a while and vocal in wanting improvement in the industry.”

There is no suggestion that union members have been specifically targeted.

The IWW is calling for couriers to be reinstated with a full apology and recompense for loss of earnings, that it will have to consider taking further action to draw attention to Deliveroos appealing treatment of its workers.

A Deliveroo spokesperson said:

“Deliveroo will always tackle fraud head on to protect our customers and the vast majority of hardworking riders.  We will not work with riders who commit fraud. Anyone who falsely claims to have delivered food to customers denies people the food they have paid for and the great service they rightly expect. 

“We are proud of the amazing work our riders do and will not allow this to be undermined by a tiny number of riders who have committed fraud.”

The company said examples of alleged malpractice included marking food as delivered when it wasn’t, and those with a high number of complaints.

When challenged on why riders couldn’t appeal, a spokesperson told LFF people could contact ‘Rider Support’.

Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.

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