The “shocking exploitation” of workers for food delivery giant Deliveroo has been exposed by new figures revealing nearly 40% of Aberdeen drivers are earning less than minimum wage.
The global online firm, which employs hundreds of workers across the Granite City, has come under fire following the release of new data showing a UK-wide pattern of poor hourly pay – with Aberdeen topping the list for underpaid staff in Scotland.
An investigation led by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and involving the Press and Journal, shows that of 291 sessions worked for Deliveroo, staff were doing close to half those at a rate lower than the minimum rate of pay.
In Aberdeen, around 38% of sessions worked fell below the UK national wage rate, while in Glasgow it was 29% and in Edinburgh the rate was 24%.
The combined figures for Scotland show that of thousands of hours worked for the gig economy employer, 43% of sessions fell below the UK wage rate.
North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald called on Deliveroo to pay workers appropriately and become a “responsible employer”.
He said: “It is really shocking and disappointing in this day and age to find that employers in the economy exploit workers in this way.
“The model of bogus self-employment that we see operating here is one that leaves the workers worse off and with no protection if things go wrong.
“I hope Deliveroo will set the example, which Uber have been forced to set, of changing into a responsible employer who pays wages and meets the legal requirements of employment.”
Lockdown has helped the London-headquartered firm hit profit as its popularity has increased during the Covid-19 pandemic – with thousands of workers signing up across the UK.
However, Aberdeen Deliveroo driver Shane Stephen claims he is often left making £3 to £4 an hour and says he believes the “majority” of drivers are being exploited.
He said: “It’s hard on young folk and foreign workers because Deliveroo know that they’re not in a position to complain.
“The company promises people that they’ll be making £10 to £11 an hour – but it doesn’t even come close to that, people are fighting over trying to get these orders.
“I’ve had orders at the exact same time, place and destination and yet I’m getting a completely different price – it’ll be £2.90 one day, £3.50 on another and £4 the next day, it makes absolutely no sense at all.”
Deliveroo, whose chief executive looks set to net £500 million through an upcoming stock market floatation, also operates in all of Scotland’s major cities, including Inverness.
Martin Le Brech, a member of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain and a part-time Deliveroo driver, said the new data displayed the “grim” situation for gig economy staff.
He added: “This shows that Deliveroo needs to step up now and make sure that people are paid the minimum wage.
“All the jobs that young people and students would usually do have been impacted by the pandemic, while at the same time Deliveroo is advertising more and more jobs.
“In all the company’s advertising it is saying that people can potentially make a lot of money but these numbers show the opposite – it’s a blatant lie on the part of Deliveroo.”
A spokeswoman for Deliveroo said riders have “complete freedom to choose when and where to work” and can choose “which deliveries to accept and which to reject”.
She added: “50,000 riders choose to work with Deliveroo, and thousands more people apply to work with us every week.
“Our way of working is designed around what riders tell us matters to them most – flexibility.
“Riders in the UK are paid for each delivery they choose to complete and earn £13 per hour on average at our busiest times. We communicate with thousands of riders every week and satisfaction is currently at an all-time high.”
Deliveroo has also stated during previous challenges on worker conditions that its business model has been “tested and upheld by the Courts in the UK on three separate occasions, judging riders to be self-employed”.
Protests could follow release of new figures
A north-east Deliveroo rider has said protests like those against the firm in 2019 could begin again following the release of damning new data on shift pay.
An Aberdeen-based cyclist network of fast-food couriers warned two years ago they were on the verge of quitting the firm over concerns they were being penalised when Deliveroo introduced new shift pattern changes.
The 2019 protest centred around cyclists, who were previously able to pre-book themselves in to work certain shifts in advance, finding that scooter and car users were being given priority for the most lucrative slots.
Since its launch in Aberdeen five years ago, Deliveroo claims more than 300 restaurants have signed up to its online platform.
The firm said it has created work for more than 730 people, with the majority of these being Deliveroo riders.
Shane Stephen, a rider who took part in the shift protest, said: “Deliveroo are charging restaurants 34% commission for their riders and they’re charging 24% commission for if the restaurant uses their own drivers, so they’re getting all this commission from this, yet they’re still penalising us with lower and lower fees.
“We need to get another protest up and running once Covid-19 is over.”