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Ocado delivery driver ‘treated like a slave’ as pay is slashed by ‘£5 an hour’

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Delivery drivers for Ocado Zoom have protested against pay cuts and a decline in working conditions in West London.

The delivery drivers gathered outside the Ocado Zoom depot in Acton last Thursday (September 30) to protest against the extensive ‘cuts’ to their pay, which has left drivers needing Universal Credit and applying for other jobs.

The drivers deliver food ordered through Ocado Zoom; a newer service for Ocado specialising in same day delivery, and currently operates in the UK only from the site in Acton.

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Delivery drivers for the service rallied outside the depot in Acton to protest against “large pay cuts for the workforce” after months of tension between the fleet and the business.

The protest was organised by the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain and attended by Ealing’s Trades Union Congress.

Drivers claim they were previously earning around £15 an hour when they were employed by third-party courier service, Stuart Delivery Ltd, before Ocado began trialling another delivery service – Ryde – in mid-June this year.

Drivers say their pay and conditions went from bad to “worse” with Ryde, leading to a dramatic reduction in pay.

The protest took place outside the Ocado Zoom depot in Acton

Following growing anger and protests, Ocado say they are offering drivers the “opportunity to work directly for Ocado” from October 4 and have ended their “third party supplier arrangements.”

However, drivers say they are being recruited via an employment agency, Job and Talent.

Despite reportedly being offered pay of £10.85 an hour (the London Living Wage), the drivers are still angered by the significant cut to their pay.

Bruno Vitorino, 40, was delivering food for the Ocado Zoom service throughout the pandemic.

The delivery driver, who lives in Westminster, said he worked 17-hours a day, seven-days a week and earned around £1,500 – £1,700 a week through third-party contractor, Stuart.

Drivers working for Stuart and Ryde are expected to pay for their own vehicles, maintenance, petrol and insurance.

Bruno Vitorino, 40, delivered food throughout the pandemic

Bruno Vitorino, 40, delivered food throughout the pandemic

The key worker continued to work throughout the pandemic helping families receive food.

Bruno, who moved to the UK from Portugal in 2005, said he would often sleep in his car at the Ocado Zoom depot to avoid taking the “virus home”.

He said: “It was really hard work. I was pleased doing that because I know I was helping people at home, many elderly people [were] home alone. We were the only people that they were seeing and talking and getting help from – it was a pleasure.

“In the lockdown, I was always working most of the time. I didn’t see my family.”

However, the drivers describe being ‘forced to move’ from Stuart to Ryde in mid-June, which led to a drastic reduction in their pay.

“In the beginning we were doing the same amount of work, same hours, for half of what we were getting in Stuart,” he said.

“My opinion is that I’ve been treated unfairly, like a machine, like a slave and never as a human being.”

Bruno also described how the workload increased for drivers when working with Ryde, despite being paid less.

A driver said the pay cut left him in 'tears'

A driver said the pay cut left him in ‘tears’

According to the driver, pay for one 17-hour shift would range from £250-£300 with Stuart. This reduced to between £100-£130 with Ryde, but this would depend on the number of deliveries they were assigned.

Bruno believes this was a “well done plan” from Ocado to reduce drivers’ wages.

“I’ve been in England for 15 years, [the] gig economy is disgraceful. Ocado is the worst, till today, the worst company I’ve worked for,” he added.

Ocado’s CEO Tim Steiner received a £58.7m pay packet in 2019 and is reportedly planning to roll out Ocado Zoom across Britain, according to The Observer.

Following protests by drivers, Ocado announced the end to ‘third party supplier arrangements’ and claim drivers are being offered the chance to ‘work directly for Ocado’.

However, the IWGB say this decision will still lead to ‘large pay cuts for the workforce’ for drivers, who will be recruited through employment agency, Job & Talent.

As a result, Bruno was forced to find a new job due to the reduction in his pay.

He said: “It’s getting really difficult but I’m fighting, we are in post-lockdown, it’s not easy… It’s becoming really bad… every week it’s getting worse and worse.”

A driver described being treated like a 'slave'

A driver described being treated like a ‘slave’

Faizan Barbar, 30, was previously employed by Stuart and solely did deliveries for Ocado Zoom.

Like Bruno, Faizan also worked throughout the pandemic to provide food to various people who ordered through the rapid delivery service.

“We were key workers. It was really scary. I’m classed as a high risk person, my daughter had a heart condition too,” he said.

Faizan previously said he earned around £15 an hour when employed by third-party contractor Stuart.

However, since drivers moved to Ryde, Faizan has seen a big reduction in his pay.

He said: “It leaves us in such a bad condition… I broke into tears, my daughter wanted to go to Chessington and different theme parks and I can’t afford to do that.”

Faizan said he received around “£200 in a shift” with Stuart, but says this decreased to around “£100” with Ryde.

And, despite Ocado now offering drivers £10.85 per hour, both Faizan and Bruno acknowledge that this is still less than what they were previously earning with Stuart.

Barry Gardiner MP joined the IWGB protest at the Ocado Zoom Depot in September

Barry Gardiner MP joined the IWGB protest at the Ocado Zoom Depot in September

The President of IWGB, Alex Marshall, said: “In June this year Ocado decided to stop using Stuart Delivery and began using a new third party app called Ryde.

“Ryde paid the workers extremely low amounts and gave them massive deliveries to do. The app also did not work very well and meant they had to be constantly glue to their phones in the hope of receiving jobs.

“We already had some members at the depot but the transition to Ryde was a real catalyst as the workers saw pay and conditions go from bad to worse and for some it was unsustainable.”

Despite a list of demands put forward by the President on August 23, including pay of £16 per hour (plus costs) and bringing couriers in house on Limb B worker contracts, he says Ocado did not give a direct response.

The IWGB argue the latest ‘offer of employment’ by Ocado will still lead to ‘large pay cuts for the workforce’ for drivers.

The President added: ”Workers are currently feeling incredibly disheartened and struggling financially and mentally. Some have been forced to work elsewhere.

“They do not understand why a wealthy company like Ocado would treat them so badly after they put their lives on the line during the pandemic. They have worked so hard to build up the business and now they feel like they are being thrown out for merely asking for what they were legally entitled to.”

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Ocado Zoom accounts for c.1% of Ocado Retail’s home deliveries today, and as the service has been built up Ocado has used third party delivery services to help meet demand.

This is unlike the rest of Ocado in the UK – the remaining 99% of home deliveries are made by directly employed drivers.

Ocado has announced that it is moving to a directly employed delivery team at Ocado Zoom Acton, ending current third party delivery arrangements and bringing this delivery team in-line with the wider driver workforce.

This means that the delivery team will be employed directly by Ocado (not an agency or third party).

All drivers currently working for third-party suppliers are being encouraged to apply for directly employed roles. Ocado say they recognise that many of these drivers desire or require flexibility in their working hours, and to accommodate this we have ensured that a range of contract options are being offered – from full time to part-time to more flexible arrangements.

Ocado Zoom drivers will receive the full range of Ocado employee benefits, which includes health insurance, pension, holiday and share scheme. All of these driver roles at Zoom Acton pay the London Living Wage and include uniforms, delivery vehicles and motor insurance. All drivers also have the opportunity to join USDAW, which is Ocado’s recognised union.

Ocado believes that the changes being made will result in improved terms and conditions for drivers.

The latest update from Ocado stated (September 3): “At Ocado our delivery drivers are the heart and soul of our business. We recognise this and strive to ensure Ocado is a place where our drivers want to make a long-term career.

“It’s for this reason that over the past year we have been building up our delivery team at Ocado Zoom, our immediacy service which currently runs from a single site in Acton, west London (which currently is c1% of our home deliveries). Today over half of orders delivered by Ocado Zoom are made by directly employed drivers, with the rest fulfilled by third party delivery partners.

“Today (September 3) we’ve announced that we’re moving into the final stages of recruiting our Ocado Zoom Acton delivery team and ending our current third party supplier arrangements. As part of this process, all drivers currently working for our third party suppliers are being offered the opportunity to work directly for Ocado.

“All driver roles at Zoom Acton pay the London Living Wage by the hour and include uniforms, delivery vehicles and motor insurance. Contracts can be adapted for the flexibility people need from full time to fully flexible.”

A Stuart spokesperson said: “At Stuart, we are committed to being the best delivery platform for couriers looking for flexibility and financial stability and ensuring good levels of pay is a cornerstone of how we operate.”

My London contacted Ryde but did not receive a response.

A spokesperson from Ryde told The Observer: “We put the welfare of our workforce at the heart of everything that we do.

“On average, workers on our platform earn 15% to 20% more than other gig economy businesses. We constantly champion improved conditions for them across the board.”

My London has also contacted Job and Talent for comment.

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https://www.mylondon.news/news/west-london-news/ocado-delivery-driver-treated-like-21792283