‘The problem is that the company hired too many people and there are not enough orders for everyone to deliver,’ says Italian student Alessandro Zanchetta, who joined Uber Eats last October. Couriers work as freelancers and are paid per delivery, so fewer orders means fewer earnings. ‘Some days we might not earn at all because there are twenty people waiting for 3 orders every hour,’ says Alessandro.
Previously, according to company terms and agreements, couriers could expect hourly earnings if they fulfilled minimum delivery requirements. That expectation has since been reduced, with payment now guaranteed only during peak hours. But with the declining amount of orders, hourly pay has become crucial for the drivers, says a Greek courier who refused to be named.
‘Uber has stopped giving discounts and promo-codes to customers which was often the main incentive to order through us. Why don´t they do more marketing activities to stop the drop in orders?’
The strike erupted spontaneously after a group of drivers sent an identical complaint to Uber. They expressed their discontent and asked for solutions: more timeslots for guaranteed payment and ideally, more orders.
Uber replied that the idea behind the new system of fewer set payments was to respond ‘more effectively’ to the busiest timeslots. The company also referred to a recently launched ‘big marketing campaign in Groningen’ that brought ‘positive results’.
Too many people, not enough orders
But couriers feel Uber just doesn´t get the message. Even during busiest hours, there are too many couriers waiting for too few orders, says Gonzalo, a driver from Colombia. Some days he spends 10 hours on his bike, delivering only one order every 3 hours and making no more than 50 euro. ‘We know that from our position as freelancers, we can’t ask for too much. Uber is a huge company and Groningen is one small dot on the map. But if you don´t try, you’ll never know!’
Uber responded the next day by offering extra money for those working during lunch hours. But Gonzalo thinks the move is a ruse to get couriers out on the streets to deliver outstanding orders. ‘We´re still very unhappy and feel like nobody is listening to us.’
While some couriers are thinking of quitting, others could not even afford to participate in the strike. Most drivers are students and need all the money they can get, says Gonzalo. ‘They simply couldn´t go on any longer without the job. But I know that if we try again, we can succeed.’