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Rapid grocery delivery firms may move couriers to insecure gig contracts

Courier rider

Rapid grocery delivery firms in the UK are reportedly considering moving hundreds of couriers from hourly paid contracts to gig-economy contracts as the threat of stricter regulations has receded, according to industry sources.

The companies aim to deliver groceries within 15 minutes and are reportedly considering the move as it is cheaper to pay per drop-off than by the hour.

One of the largest firms in the sector is said to be planning the move, and several others have confirmed they are re-evaluating worker contracts.

Read More: Amazon to close eight grocery stores as cost-cutting continues

This comes after Just Eat, which has also expanded into the on-demand grocery market, announced last month it was laying off 1,700 workers in the UK and reverting to a gig-economy model.

Couriers in the sector have expressed concern about a return to the gig economy, which offers no guaranteed minimum hourly rates, paid holidays or job security.

 Ian Morrison, a courier for five years, said that guaranteed hourly rates gave workers the peace of mind on quiet days when there were fewer jobs.

Read More: Amazon halts UK grocery store launch after poor sales

The warnings come as many companies in the sector have expanded rapidly during the pandemic, leading to recent closures and acquisitions.

Despite promises from ministers to introduce legislation to protect gig-economy workers, no modern employment bill has been brought in.

The appeal of the gig-economy model appeared to be waning after a UK supreme court ruling that Uber drivers should be classed as workers.

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However, the ruling has not been followed by new protections or tougher enforcement in the gig economy.

Alex Marshall, president of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain told the Guardian that companies had been given the green light to tear up workers’ rights: “Companies that had adopted more ethical business models are reverting to the hyper-exploitative gig-economy model after ministers failed to come up with new laws which give workers the rights and flexibility they desperately need.”

A government spokesperson said: “The government is backing six private members’ bills to deliver on our commitments on workers’ rights, including easier access to flexible working and a right to request a more predictable contract.”

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