“Since the word got out about the poor conditions people have started to tip”, one of food delivery riders told us.
A group of friends and I (with an interest in Surry Hills) got together this evening with a group of food delivery drivers and riders to learn more about their experiences.
In the last year or so, you might have read about the low wages and safety issues in this new industry. Conditions seem to have worsened since the COVID lockdown, with some of the companies reducing the amount of money they pay.
A lot of international students were already doing this kind of work, and many others resorted to it as other jobs dried up during the pandemic.
“The whole business model is based around isolation”, one of the drivers said. He explained how you turn up at a restaurant, and the staff there don’t want to know you, and then you deliver the food and people are rude.
“Does anyone ever smile or say thankyou”, I asked. “After a while”, he replied, “you don’t want to engage with people. I prefer to just deliver the food and then leave straight away”.
Unlike most jobs where you have a manager, most of the industry is around interaction only with the app.
“Is there much solidarity with other drivers”, I asked. “You see each other as competition for the job”, one of the riders replied.
One of the riders said he hadn’t told his family back in India about his experiences, concerned they would be worried about him.
So why do they do it? Flexibility of hours was a key theme in the experiences of people at tonight’s gathering. “I can do a a couple of deliveries before and after classes”, one said. “If you work hard, you can earn good money”, another added.
But compared to this time last year, people need to work longer hours we were told. “The money I could make in 45 hours last year, I would now need to work up to 60 or 70”, one said.
“We’ve heard all these stories before”, one man said in frustration. Another replied that most of the community hadn’t heard these stories, adding “we need to tell them”.
“A lot of people I know feel a real tension about food delivery” one of my friends said. “You know about the poor conditions of the riders and drivers, so you don’t want to use them. Or you use them, knowing people will have jobs”, she added.
“As a consumer maybe giving them a tip is one very practical thing you can do?”, I said.
The rider who spoke about people starting to tip said he was optimistic. “It’s a sign of the fairness of Australians”, he said.