In this icy weather, Deliveroo is putting riders’ safety at risk

Delivery time targets pressure riders to take risks.

Ethan Bradley is a Deliveroo rider in York and Communications Officer of the IWGB trade union’s Couriers and Logistics Branch

Any Deliveroo cyclist who has experienced a winter before knows how risky the job can be. Navigating traffic-laden roads while dealing with icy, wet and windy conditions makes cycling treacherous enough, let alone doing so for 8 hours a day while ferrying a double KFC order across town on your back.

The pandemic has led to Deliveroo’s riders being applauded as ‘key workers’. But in the winter of 2021, they are more precarious, and more at risk, than ever before.

Deliveroo goes to great lengths to tell the public it is committed to providing safe work. In reality, this job is anything but.

I started riding in 2018, swayed by promises of £12 per hour, plastered across social media. The “Beast from the East” was tearing its way through the country and fee boosts were common. Any rider daring enough to brave the biting wind and snow got an extra £2 on top of the usual £4 per job.

They touted this as a sort of hazard pay. But such wages are long gone. Through successive periods of bad weather, the reality became clear – Deliveroo never cared about our safety. They only ever increase our earnings if they need more riders on the road and will overwise pay riders as little as they can get away with.

This current cold snap, bringing black ice and snow with it, has scarcely seen any boosts whatsoever. It means that riders, some ill-equipped to deal with the state of the roads, have no choice but to work.

Deliveroo’s key recruiting message of “flexible” work doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. We have the “flexibility” to choose between long hours in poor conditions and not making enough money to make ends meet. After we factor in maintenance and equipment costs, our pay commonly averages out at below the minimum wage.

The company’s claims that they do their part to help riders is performative, clearly motivated by presenting themselves as “respectable” to investors, prior to this spring’s long-touted initial public offering.

Deliveroo’s “winter safety kits” are nothing more than a few bottles of branded chain lube and bike degreaser. Similarly, at the height of the pandemic last year, they boasted about their PPE offerings and their “rider support fund” for self-isolating couriers.

In fact, this PPE arrived over six weeks after lockdown began (and was a few flimsy cloth masks and bottles of sanitizer) while their support fund required a positive coronavirus test – at a time when tests were reserved for hospital in-patients.

Self-isolation was not a luxury we had. As demand has collapsed during each successive lockdown, riders have been forced to work long hours, with inadequate protection, throughout both the height of the pandemic and the cold winter months. So long as somebody is fulfilling their orders, Deliveroo couldn’t care less.

Not content with failing to ensure basic rider well-being, Deliveroo has chosen this winter to roll out “delivery estimates” to their rider app. This imposes tight targets upon us, which don’t take weather conditions, traffic, or road closures into account.

The implications of this are clear. After riders were sacked for the flimsiest of reasons without due process or the right to appeal – as our Clapped and Scrapped campaign has highlighted – this leaves the constant threat of termination on our shoulders.

The perverse incentive is clear: riders should take more and more risks on the roads, not only incurring the threat of crippling fines for traffic violations, but also putting their lives on the line for a meagre wage, while the profits of their employer boom. Rider deaths have become a sad reality across the world; such reckless behaviour by this company means the next is only a matter of time away.

As long as I’ve been working for them Deliveroo’s sign off, on their emails and rider support line has been “Ride safe”. This has long been regarded as laughable in the eyes of riders. But in 2021, this phrase has never rung more hollow.

A spokesperson for Deliveroo said: “The safety of riders is our absolute priority and we take every step to ensure they feel safe when on the road. We were the first delivery platform to give all riders free insurance to protect them in case something goes wrong while on the road, and we are constantly looking at new ways to extend our support.

“For example, this winter, as part of our ongoing road safety campaign, riders in the UK who work with us most regularly were given the opportunity to redeem a free winter safety kit from Deliveroo in partnership with Muc Off.”

“Every rider who onboards with Deliveroo receives a free kit, including a waterproof jacket and underlayer, to help keep them warm and dry while they work. “

As you’re here, we have something to ask you. What we do here to deliver real news is more important than ever. But there’s a problem: we need readers like you to chip in to help us survive. We deliver progressive, independent media, that challenges the right’s hateful rhetoric. Together we can find the stories that get lost.

We’re not bankrolled by billionaire donors, but rely on readers chipping in whatever they can afford to protect our independence. What we do isn’t free, and we run on a shoestring. Can you help by chipping in as little as £1 a week to help us survive? Whatever you can donate, we’re so grateful - and we will ensure your money goes as far as possible to deliver hard-hitting news.

Comments are closed.