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Employment

‘Your couriers have to use food banks’: Deliveroo accused of hypocrisy over Trussell Trust partnership

Deliveroo has joined forces with national food bank charity The Trussell Trust to provide two million meals to those in need. But critics have warned the gig economy firm’s model has left its couriers relying on food parcels themselves.

Deliveroo has been accused of “sanitising its increasingly discredited public image” by teaming up with a national food bank charity after repeated allegations of low pay.

The gig economy firm announced this week it would join forces with The Trussell Trust to deliver two million meals to people in need and to allow customers to donate to the charity’s food banks with in-app food orders. 

But critics have questioned the partnership following long-standing allegations of low pay in Deliveroo’s business model. Last year a Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ)investigation found some riders were paid as little £2 an hour, while couriers in Belfast walked out as recently as last month over pay.

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“Once again we are seeing Deliveroo show more concern for sanitising its increasingly discredited public image than for the welfare of its riders and drivers, many of whom are at the sharp end of the cost of living crisis,” said Ahmed Uhuru Hafezi from the Couriers Branch of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB), the union that represents Deliveroo riders.

“Take a visit to food banks across London and you will see couriers filling their delivery bags with emergency food supplies for their own families, forced into relying on charity due to poverty pay and a lack of basic rights such as sick pay.

“If Deliveroo wants to tackle food poverty and hunger in the UK, it should start by paying its workers enough to cover their expenses and feed their families, rather than relying on the good will of food banks and its customers.”

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The Trussell Trust said it has “received assurances” from Deliveroo over the firm’s self-employment model and rider fees after carrying out due diligence on the company. Deliveroo told The Big Issue it has “a history of working with charities to provide meals to those in need” and said its riders “always earn more than the national minimum wage”. 

The partnership comes at a time when the cost of living crisis is leaving more people at risk of falling into food poverty while surging inflation is seeing the cost of essentials rise faster than wages.

In research commissioned by Deliveroo to mark the team-up with The Trussell Trust, one in 10 parents – equivalent to 1.3 million people – revealed they are likely to need to use a food bank to feed their family in the next three months.

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But the TBIJ investigation in March 2021 revealed that one in three of the Deliveroo riders they spoke to made less than £8.72 per hour – the national minimum wage for those aged over 25 at the time.

The Bureau’s investigation, which analysed 12,000 work sessions across 318 riders in the UK across the 2020-21 financial year, found half of the couriers earned less than £10 an hour while one in six took home less than £6.45 per hour. 

The current cost of living crisis has seen 550 UK food banks warn in an open letter to prime minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak that they could soon hit “breaking point”.

Sabine Goodwin, coordinator of the Independent Food Aid Network – the group that organised the letter – said that firms like Deliveroo must ensure pay means employees can afford basics including food.

“Low pay and insecure work are key drivers of growing poverty and food bank use in the UK,” said Goodwin.

“A real living wage and job security can mean the difference between being able to afford food and having to rely on charity. Deliveroo, supermarkets and any other companies committed to tackling food insecurity must prioritise preventing hunger from happening in the first place.”

Alex Collinson, the analysis and research officer at the Trade Unions Congress (TUC), also raised concerns over the partnership on social media. He said: “It’s clearly cheaper for them [Deliveroo] to very publicly give some cash to a charity campaign than it is to pay their workers enough to live on.”

Deliveroo riders are treated as self-employed following a UK Court of Appeal ruling last year. That means Deliveroo has no legal obligation to pay its riders a minimum wage.

A Deliveroo spokesperson told The Big Issue the firm has “a history of working with charities to provide meals to those in need”, citing team-ups with restaurants to feed NHS workers during the pandemic. Deliveroo has also worked with the Felix Project and Fareshare to deliver one million meals to people facing food poverty.

As part of the partnership, Deliveroo staff will also volunteer for The Trussell Trust.

“Tens of thousands of riders choose to work with Deliveroo in the UK because our way of working is designed around what riders tell us matters to them most – the chance to determine their own work patterns and work when and where they want,” the spokesperson added.

“Riders always earn more than the national minimum wage while working with us and in most cases riders earn significantly more than this. We are pleased to have recently extended our free insurance coverage to riders, protecting them when they are unwell and cannot work and giving one-off payments to new parents. Deliveroo is committed to offer riders both flexibility and security.”

The Trussell Trust told The Big Issue the partnership with Deliveroo has been subject to the charity’s “robust due diligence process” including reviewing the firm’s equal opportunities policies, statements, working conditions and fair treatment aspects.

Emma Revie, chief executive at the Trussell Trust, said: “We’ve had lengthy discussions with Deliveroo in reaching this agreement and received assurances about the rider self-employment model and rider fees, as well as various conversations with them about building a meaningful relationship that speaks to our values. The Trussell Trust will proceed to carry out due diligence tests with Deliveroo every six months and will also respond rapidly to any concerns.

“By joining forces with Deliveroo and introducing the round-up donation function, we are able to bring the issue of families facing hunger to the forefront of people’s minds at the exact moment they are able to make a difference by making a donation to support communities across the UK via the app. The funds raised through this function as well as an accompanying awareness campaign, will aim to encourage conversations about creating real change and turning compassion into action.”

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