Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, has described Deliveroo riders as “essential workers” and called on them to be “treated better” at a meeting he had with riders and their representatives on Tuesday.
“Met Deliveroo riders today,” Mr Varadkar posted on Twitter. “Wanted to hear first hand about the issues they are experiencing. These are essential workers who should be treated better. Will be following up.”
At the meeting attended by riders as well as the English Language Student’s Union of Ireland, the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland, the Immigrant Council of Ireland, the Irish Network Against Racism, and Siptu, the terms and conditions of riders, as well as ongoing safety concerns were addressed.
“Deliveroo riders made a very compelling case to the Tánaiste about a need for an improvement to their terms and conditions,” said Shane O’Curry from the Irish Network Against Racism.
He added that Mr Varadkar appeared to respond positively to the presentations. “What we were getting back did not seem like rhetoric and he was in problem-solving mode,” Mr O’Curry said.
The meeting largely focused on the terms and conditions offered to Deliveroo riders by the company, which says they have “a bogus self-employment status,” Mr O’Curry said.
The company’s riders in Ireland are deemed to be self-employed individual contractors, rather than employees, and as a result do not have rights such as annual leave and sick pay.
Riders and their representatives also addressed issues around work visas and rules of employment and a call was made for visa extensions for migrant workers until the end of the pandemic.
Mr O’Curry also said the meeting heard calls for an end to the requirement for migrant workers on Stamp 2 working visas that limit their legal right to work to just 20 hours a week.
He said the restrictions meant many riders had no option but to work for the delivery company as other employers including large supermarkets would not employ them with such restrictions in place.
After the meeting, Mr Varadkar said that “platform working is becoming more and more common and the services they provide like takeaway deliveries have been essential during the pandemic”.
He said many were students and migrants adding that he would “hate to think their memories of Ireland would be of exploitation or mistreatment”.
He said that while platforms provide income and flexible work for a lot of people some workers and contractors “find themselves in a grey area when it comes to their employment rights and I was keen to hear about this first hand from them which is why I requested this meeting”.
He said he would be “following up on the matters raised with the Minister for Justice, the companies and reviewing employment law in this area”.
In response to queries, a Deliveroo spokesman said it was “proud to offer flexible, self-employed work to more than 1,000 riders in Ireland”.
He said that riders could choose “when, where and whether to work, enabling them to fit their work around their lives and other commitments such as studying. Riders who choose to ride for Deliveroo say that the flexibility we provide is their primary reason for riding with Deliveroo.”
“We were the first delivery company to offer all riders free insurance, protecting them in the event that they are involved in an accident while working with Deliveroo and we have consistently said though that we do not believe flexibility should be traded off against security.
“We will continue to campaign for the law to enable companies such as ours to give self-employed riders greater protections and benefits without this impacting their self-employed status that riders tell us they value above all else.”
Deliveroo has previously said its riders typically earned above the national minimum wage and has been suggested that on average they earn €13 per hour at mealtimes, an amount that excluded additional tips they may receive.
Deliveroo has also pointed to distance-based fees, which sees riders earn more for medium- and long-distance deliveries.
The company was founded by Will Shu in 2013 in London and operates in over 500 towns and cities across 12 markets.
It launched in Ireland in 2015, and currently works with more than 1,000 riders and over 1,800 restaurants across Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway.
Its Irish division recorded a 40 per cent rise in turnover last year as sales rose from €9.3 million to €13.8 million.
It has seen a huge jump in demand during the Covid-19 crisis and in addition to delivering takeaways, it has also expanded into groceries though a partnership with Aldi, which helps it reach an estimated 1.5 million shoppers in the Republic.