Guest article: Lisa & Maja
A note from the injustice blog:
During the course of my time in the gig economy, I noticed a rise in female couriers taking up the job. Unfortunately, as I suspected, the unique challenges that female gig workers face appear to be unanimous and widespread, with reports of sexual harassment, lack of toilet dignity and a general sense of discomfort.
In fact, the video that I recorded of trying to access the toilets in Five Guys, which caused quite the fuss and ended up on the public freakout page on Reddit, happened – not because I needed the toilet, but because I saw a female colleague in tears who told me that she’s suffering from an infection…and had been refused toilet access at that Five Guys and didn’t know where to go. Fortunately, I pointed her in the direction of a place nearby that isn’t so idiotic. Nevertheless, what a bunch of heartless ****s.
I spoke with a number of female couriers over the past few months and would most certainly say that they’re far more polite, pleasant and patient in nature to the boisterous, testy male counterparts. This, however, means that whilst pushy male colleagues wave their phones 9ft in the air for the attention of restaurant staff, women are left at the back of the queue waiting for orders, without pay.
It appears that no support is provided to female couriers – no signposting to specialist services in the event of gender-specific incidents, no information provided about sexual harassment in the workplace, and no specific way in which to report such harassment.
Very kindly, Lisa (not their real name) and upcoming personal trainer, Maja Nowak have written about their experiences of working in the gig economy as female couriers. Unsurprisingly, both women report similar themes.
What I will end with is this… Guys, please treat your female couriers with the same respect and courtesy as male couriers. They’re out there to work…nothing more.Sabbir Malik
I have worked part time for both Uber and Deliveroo for a year, and I’m already ready to head in another direction. The army being my current pursuit.
Almost all office jobs come with hourly/yearly pay, yet couriers are subjected to an unpredictable hourly wage. During my (comparatively) short experience, my hourly wage has ranged from £4-£23+ an hour.
As a female courier, I’m naturally greeted by customers preempting the arrival of a male courier, and greeting me with “mate” and “son”. This doesn’t bother me at all, it’s a male dominated sector and even I can’t always tell who’s who! Yet some customers seem embarrassed when they realise I’m a woman, saying “oh, sorry love”. Same as male riders, we’re just doing our job, if you’re polite, we’re happy! So there’s no need to feel awkward… Just don’t be like the guy who screamed at me because the restaurant forgot their prawn crackers!
Other than the disappointment of a poor wage and generally unhelpful companies: Uber being the worst as a result of their exclusively automated “support” and sudden suspension or termination of accounts (I have been suspended for 3 days for marking an order as “damaged”), toilet availability and the public are the only other aspects which affect me directly.
When cycling during summer, and having my face and legs exposed, I know it’s inevitable to receive provocative comments, despite dressing suitably and simply wishing to work. On a working day, comments, whistling, and generally primitive (and frankly embarrassing behaviour) is definitely inbound. When only wanting to work and simply earn money, subjection to verbal abuse in on the bottom of my To-do List.
As for toilets, I have walked into a certain restaurant (rhymes with Nan gos) with a bad nose bleed before -from the heat- and had to request multiple times before they let me clean myself up in the toilet (before I collected my order). In my area, a particular branch of McDonalds is the only place where the toilet is available to use without asking permission from staff – which seems demeaning as an adult.
I want to congratulate those who are full time. I’m called the “the worst part timer” as I have such short patience when waiting for orders. In my area, moped drivers have suddenly become penalised by parking inspectors for simply trying to do their job and waiting in parking bays. I wish anyone reading this success for now and the future.
To conclude: if verbal harassment, working under minimum wage during long hours is something you want to do: become a delivery driver!
I was in the process of trying to become a personal trainer, but unfortunately my plans have been put on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic.
I have been working for three courier companies over the last year, including Stuart, Deliveroo and Uber Eats. Of all three I would definitely say Stuart is the best to work for because the pay is a lot better than the other two and Deliveroo comes in at second with the worst being Uber Eats. However, as a woman doing this job there have been challenges that I know male colleagues do not face in this primarily male-dominated industry. These challenges apply to all three companies and no doubt all other courier companies too.
As a fitness freak I use my bicycle to do my work. It was in the first week that I started in April 2020 that an order I received from Uber (who do not tell you where you are going!) I ended up going into a very dangerous estate in the Elephant and Castle area and unfortunately my bike got stolen which left me in tears having to call my flat-mate to come and get me. Did Uber care? No. Did they help me with lost wages? No. Instead I received a standard message saying that they are sorry this happened to me – that is it. That bike was my pride and joy – For those that know bikes well it was a Cannondale CAAD13. I also had a Garmin computer on it. Just leaving it for 20 seconds to deliver the order to the customer it was gone. The police also were useless and closed the case giving me a crime reference number!
To date I am extremely upset about this situation as Uber literally left me over £2000 out of pocket – Any normal employer would have some kind of insurance policy to protect from such things, but not for Uber!
I managed to buy a secondhand cheap Carrera bike just to be able to continue working. But I have hated every moment of it since. My pay ranges between £3 – 7 per hour at most when taking into account all of the hours that I work. This means I need to work extra long hours just to make ends meet.
As a female courier, when I face my monthly cycle… I don’t even work; this is because no restaurant ever allows us to use the toilet, saying that because of the pandemic they are not allowed. This is especially a problem for female couriers because unlike the men out there, we can’t just go on a bush!
The other problem that I face is sexual harassment. So many moped riding men have made inappropriate comments to me when I am waiting to pick an order up. Customers also make so many inappropriate comments and eventually I just wear a really big face mask and big jacket so that I do not get harassed. I don’t even find it flattering, it is degrading and I feel like there is nowhere to turn to or no help provided for female couriers.
I am fortunate now that I have managed to get a new job. I feel that the last almost one year of my life has been misery – nobody cares about couriers rights despite the fact we work so many long hours for so little pay, risking our own health with no social distancing. We are disrespected by restaurants, and as women we are exposed to inappropriate customers, and to top it off…None of the companies care.