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Gig Economy: App Error Causes Couriers To Be Fired

Couriers who deliver food and drink for Just Eat have been fired after being mislocated by the GPS system or deviating from impossible or dangerous routes.  The drivers worked for Stuart, a company that supplies drivers to some of the biggest restaurant and retail names in the UK, and were sacked via email.

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) claims there are dozens of couriers for Stuart in cities across the country, from Exeter to Leeds, who have lost their jobs this way.

In one example, reported by The Observer, a courier was sacked after working fulltime for three years for the app-based Stuart.  One Tuesday morning he made the 10-mile cycle ride from his home in Birmingham as usual, taking out his phone on arrival to log in to the app as he had done for the past three years.  But that morning, he had a new message: his account had been terminated and his access to the platform blocked – meaning he could not earn money.  Several of his deliveries had been “flagged for severe delays caused by excessive detours”, including three order numbers listed in the email.

Odawa did not recognise two of them and the third related to a job where he had arrived on time and made the delivery but, he says, the in-app GPS incorrectly located the address, forcing him to cycle almost a mile to the wrong location to mark the job as complete.  After his employment was terminated, Odawa repeatedly emailed Stuart but received only standardised emails in return, stating that his request for reinstatement had been denied and the decision was final.

Another courier received a termination email citing “GPS manipulation” while in hospital recovering from a road accident that happened during the previous night’s shift. His subsequent emails, which included pictures of his written-off motorcycle, went unanswered.

Alex Marshall, president of the IWGB, said the cases were “among the more egregious examples of a gig economy that is increasingly squeezing workers as much as possible and then just dropping them without any accountability.  People are losing their livelihoods in an instant and those that are still working are putting their lives at risk.”  He also said terminated couriers were “assumed without question to be acting fraudulently and denied a fair and proper process”.

A spokesperson for Stuart said the company “takes the issue of courier off-boarding very seriously”, and: “We can’t comment publicly on individual cases, but we only make the decision to off-board when we have plenty of evidence to support our decision, without exceptions.”  They added: “Stuart operates an appeal process that is followed in every case where an appeal is submitted.”

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