The tragic killing of Thiago Cortes, who was killed in the course of his work for food delivery company Deliveroo, has highlighted the unsafe and precarious working conditions for employees of the company.
The Deliveroo business model is one where drivers are encouraged to see themselves as self-employed – a ‘bogus self-employment’ model which has been on the rise for the last decade.
The promise that is sold to the workers is that this will give them the flexibility to choose their own working hours. However, the reality is that the employee takes on all of the risks of work, with very few protections from the employer.
Indeed, this employment model usually means that workers are paid poverty wages, are on zero hours contracts, and are afforded very little in terms of sick pay, healthcare, and other protections.
In recent months, Deliveroo riders had their wages cut from €4.30 per order to a jaw-droppingly low €2.80.
They work extremely antisocial hours in dangerous conditions – cycling for hours on end, into all kinds of areas. Drivers have experienced verbal and physical assaults, and have been given little to no protection from Deliveroo.
More recently, in Covid times, Deliveroo cyclists have alleged that the company has failed to provide sanitisers and masks to ensure their safety.
This is all the more scandalous when you consider the scale of the profits being made by the company.
Food delivery has become a multibillion-Euro sector. Founded in 2012, Deliveroo’s worth exceeds one billion, according to The New York Times.
Last year, the e-commerce giant Amazon (another notoriously bad employer), also made a $575 million investment in Deliveroo.
The death of Thiago Cortes has once again exposed the precariousness of life for non-European, gig-economy workers.
The state must regulate the sector to protect vulnerable workers and to ensure that greedy corporations who profit from this form of exploitation – of migrant workers – in particular – bears responsibility for the welfare of these employees.