Couriers for one of the world’s largest take away delivery apps claim they are struggling to earn a living due to decreasing fees for their work.
UberEats launched its service in Wales in 2017 and has seen enormous growth in business throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
The company reported global revenues of $1.4bn (£1bn) in the three months to September 30, 2020 – a jump of 124% on the same period in 2019.
But delivery drivers in Wales claim the company’s earning structure has been gradually offering decreasing returns for their journeys, leaving them no option but to work longer hours and pick up other jobs in order to maintain their income.
They claim their repeated complaints to UberEats are falling on deaf ears, with the company refusing to respond to feedback and strike action carried out by couriers.
Sam Rees, 28, began delivering for UberEats in Newport during Wales’ initial lockdown in about May of last year.
At the time, the work was plentiful and Sam said he was usually able to comfortably earn a satisfactory wage after a four or five-hour shift.
But now he often needs to work for about eight or nine hours in order to keep the arrangement viable. Like many other drivers, he works a second job delivering goods for Amazon.
“You’re bringing less money home so it puts more pressure on you at home especially at a time like this,” he said.
“I’m in a position where Amazon and Uber are my main full-time income jobs.
“But my costs are going up. The cost of fuel, tyres, brakes, and all that is going up but all that seems to be happening with Uber is you are being paid less per delivery.
“I’m working longer hours. I could do a good maybe four or five hours with Uber and I would feel satisfied that it was enough and I could go home now.
“Now I’m doing eight or nine hours a day just to make it work. Even though they say it’s all around you as a flex worker, actually it feels more now that I’m working around them.”
Couriers for UberEats are offered fixed payments based on pick ups, drop offs, distance and time plus a series of bonuses or “boosts” for working during busy periods or in high-demand areas.
The boost multiplies drivers’ earnings for each trip and varies for each area throughout the day.
For Newport news straight to your inbox, sign up to our NewportOnline daily newsletter, here.
For example, if the boost multiple is 1.9x, then the driver will earn almost twice the base rate.
But Sam said in the time since he started working for UberEats many drivers have noticed the company has been lowering the base payment for deliveries, alongside decreases in the bonuses and boosts on offer.
“Whereas before you would go home and say bloody hell I earned £100 or £150 today, you go home now and think if it was point one more I could have had an extra £15 or £20,” Sam said.
“Literally you can see the difference in the point one less and it just feels so much less rewarding.
“Through UberEats customers can tip you, and you almost feel like you’re relying on that tip to really make the most of it.
“It’s giving good customer service. That’s how I’ve always been. Customer focused, customers at the heart of it. I try to dress smart to get that £1 maybe £2 tip from the customer.”
With a young family to support, Sam said he is concerned he may not be able to continue in the role and may have to find other work in a scarce employment market.
“At this rate I don’t think it’s viable,” he said.
“The cost of fuel is going up, the cost of everything is going up. Tyres, brakes – all the stuff that’s wear and tear. The rate Uber is going down, it’s just not viable at all.”
Kamil Ahmed, 23, began wokring for UberEats in about July of last year after losing his previous job in a restaurant due to Covid-19.
He said the rates were favourable at the time but he has seen his earnings gradually decrease in the six months since.
“A few of my friends were working it and were telling me it’s good hours and you get to be independent,” he said.
“It was good money at the start as well. Say for example I worked five or six hours I could make £10 or £15 an hour when the rate was good.
“Now it’s not much after all the expenses. I have to pay double insurance as a courier and it costs a bomb. I also have to pay for the upkeep of the car. My suspension went the other day and that cost me more than £400.”
Kamil said he has also had to increase the number of hours he’s out during the day in an effort to make up the shortfall.
“In July I did maybe 20 hours a week but now I do 60 or 70 hours-a-week,” he said.
“I’m not driving for all that time. Often you’re sat in the car waiting for jobs. Sometimes if it’s not busy I have had to put more hours in just to cover my expenses.”
Kamil said he is also charged a 25% “service fee” by UberEats for every order he delivers.
According to the UberEats website, the fee is used to “maintain and make continuous investments to enhance our technology” and varies per trip.
“If it carries on like it is now I will not be working,” he said.
A spokeswoman for Uber Eats said: “Uber Eats offers a flexible way for couriers to make money by simply logging in and out of our app when and where they choose.
“Couriers can, and often do, use other delivery apps at the same time, and our door is always open for feedback and we’re often in touch with local couriers to discuss questions or any issues they’re having.”