19 November: A cross-party group of 60 MPs have signed an Early Day Motion backing a campaign by the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) against unfair terminations of key workers by Deliveroo and Uber.
App-based couriers and private hire drivers are being dismissed by the automated processes of ‘gig economy’ companies like Deliveroo and Uber. These key workers, who have worked throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, are being stripped of their livelihoods in a time of crisis, often with no evidence of wrongdoing on their part.
The Courier and Logistics branch of the IWGB has been running the #ClappedAndScrapped campaign to gather support for the Early Day Motion. The branch, along with the United Private Hired Drivers branch, is demanding due process with basic rights to a hearing, trade union representation and to appeal terminations. This call for a transparent terminations process is based on the advice laid out by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).
Neither company clearly outlines what actions or behaviours constitute a breach of agreement and what would be grounds for dismissal. Whilst both rely on automated decisions to process everything they have both refused to explain what metrics are used or prove that any human reviews are little more than a tick box exercise.
The Information Commission Office recently wrote to Deliveroo asking them to explain what information is used when they operate automated decision making. To date the company has failed to provide any meaningful response. Couriers still have no idea what and when they could be fired for or how their data is being used.
Ian Byrne MP for Liverpool West Derby, says: “Workers for apps like Deliveroo and Uber deserve due process and fairness. These already precarious workers have kept us moving during the pandemic, while ‘gig economy’ corporations that are valued in the billions have seen business boom while continuing to dehumanise them. We must hold these corporations to account and stand with key workers. I stand with IWGB’s three demands”.
Jack Mackey, a Deliveroo bicycle courier in Aberdeen, says: “I received my first and only warning email after four years of working for Deliveroo accusing me of ‘taking too long to complete deliveries’. I asked for evidence and tips for how to improve but was met with silence. It took two months to be told I was dismissed for being over their expected delivery time on just two occasions. A proper investigation would show no customer complaints because I made those deliveries but was unable to mark this on the app because my phone battery had died.”
Andrei Donisa, an Uber driver in London, says: "I've worked as a driver with Uber for several years. In October I found my account had been put on hold after a customer alleged that I was not the driver behind the wheel. I was wearing a facemask so I don’t know how they could’ve known anyway. Uber didn’t make any contact before stopping me from working for weeks. Being without income for this time was devastating for myself and my pregnant partner. This treatment is typical with companies like Uber. Drivers are treated like we are numbers rather than people. It's high time for all the app-based operators to introduce a fair process."
Alex Marshall, IWGB President: “Wealthy corporations like Uber and Deliveroo have further dehumanised key workers during the pandemic. They’ll claim to hold workers up as heroes for their own positive PR, while they subject them to unfair dismissals. This process can see workers dismissed at the click of a button with no justification, and with no chance to appeal. We can’t let these workers be clapped and scrapped. They deserve to be treated as the frontline heroes that they are. A fair, transparent process should be the start of this.”
Notes to Editors
The Early Day Motion states: “That this House
condemns the opaque and unjust process by which app-based couriers and private hire drivers working for companies such as UBER and Deliveroo can be blocked permanently from their accounts and thus effectively dismissed from their jobs;
recognises that couriers and private hire drivers are key workers who are working on the frontline of the covid-19 pandemic and are often putting their own health at risk in the process;
recognises that that practice of dismissal is leaving many key workers on low-incomes facing potential destitution;
notes that transparency is lacking both in terms of what is expected of workers in those industries and around the reasons for their dismissal;
further notes that workers are facing dismissal and destitution for reasons beyond their control such as technical issues with the company’s app;
notes that such dismissals can be triggered by unfounded customer allegations or traffic delays, regardless of the worker’s length or quality of service;
calls for all app-based companies to end unfair dismissals by implementing fair dismissal processes, including a hearing prior to dismissal, and the right to appeal a dismissal with union representation.”