In France Uber Eats has kicked out thousands of foreign riders

In France Uber Eats has kicked out thousands of foreign riders

When Assimi Aboladji returned from vacation with his family in the south of France he was greeted by an email informing him that he no longer had a job. After two years and 11,475 deliveries, his rider account for Uber Eats, Uber's food delivery service, had been deactivated without warning. His main source of income had disappeared and his 97 percent rating had become useless: "I was shocked, after two years of excellent service," he says.

Aboladji is not the only one to be in this situation. On September 12, he joined hundreds of other riders to protest the company's tightening of rules on foreign workers who don't have the documents to work in France. In Paris, hundreds of protesters, many of them on bicycles, chanted chants such as "Justice for riders" or "Documents for Uber Eats". Anger began to spread among Uber Eats workers two months ago when the company deactivated the accounts of dozens of riders, says Jérôme Pimot, president of the Platform Couriers' Collective (Clap), the union that organized the Parisian protest. "Then came the acceleration, with the announcement of the cancellation of 2500 accounts. A massacre", adds Pimot.

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Protesters accuse Uber of exploiting the precarious status of undocumented workers and using them to increase and decrease the number of riders according to demand at will. According to unions, during the pandemic, when demand for home deliveries was particularly high, the company allowed undocumented workers to apply to work on its platform with ease. But now, with the demand for food at home that analysts say will continue to decline, couriers are being kicked out. Uber Eats' latest financial results showed that monthly users, order size and frequency only grew between 1 and 3 percent in the quarter leading up to June 2022 from last year.

In Paris, the hotel and restaurant sector has long relied on undocumented workers to circumvent the labor shortage: "Every restaurant owner in Paris has a person who works under a pseudonym," Jean told Le Monde in June. Ganizate, co-founder of the Melt restaurant group, referring to undocumented workers applying for a job using another person's residence permit.

"As part of our commitment to combat false documentary and illegal work, we have conducted a thorough verification of UberEats courier accounts in France," said Matt Keirle, spokesperson for Uber, declining to comment the timing of the new and stricter controls. Checks on 60,000 riders working for Uber Eats in France, conducted by an external company specializing in document authentication, found that 4 percent of the profiles included fake documents or were linked to creating multiple accounts, according to the data provided. by Uber.

Suspicious timing The timing of the checks raises some questions: "Why did [Uber, ed.] determine that the account is fraudulent after two years of service?" asks Aboladji, who opened an account on Uber Eats in 2020 using another person's ID because he didn't have the documents to apply for a job in France. His application was approved and for the next two years Aboladji worked for the platform without any problems. On August 23, his account was blocked. Uber told him that his profile photo on the app did not match the documents he had uploaded.

The wave of rider account deactivations has infuriated French unions, who believe Uber Eats' decision is linked to the slowdown in company growth. "The decision was taken without informing the workers - says Fabian Tosolini, delegate of Union Indépendants, who represent self-employed workers in France but who were not involved in the September 12 protest -. They woke up and found they could not connect. to the app. They no longer had an entry ".

This was also the experience of Bassekou Cissoko, whose account on Uber Eats was deactivated on July 28, 2022. The rider signed up for the platform in 2019, using another person's Italian identity card. After two weeks of testing, he explains, Uber has approved his candidacy. For the next three years, Cissoko says she worked 98 hours a week making deliveries for the platform: "During Covid, when everyone was in isolation to protect themselves from the disease, we gave our lives to Uber and customers," he says.

Many of the riders who have seen their accounts deactivated have Italian identity cards, which cannot be used to work outside Italy, reports Thomas Aonzo, president of Union Indépendants, who points out however that since 2018 Uber Eats allowed couriers to use the document to create a profile. Italian identity cards are common among asylum seekers in Europe, as are people who have entered the continent by crossing the short stretch of the Mediterranean that separates North Africa from our country.

Previous protest in France highlights Uber Eats' difficult relationship with undocumented workers. Delivery apps, often easy to use and available in multiple languages, are an inviting opportunity for job seekers in a new country, says Moritz Altenried, a digital job researcher at Humboldt University Berlin . "Even platforms [have, ed.] Need this workforce, otherwise they would struggle to find people willing to work under certain conditions."

This is not the first time Uber Eats has been accused of exploiting a workforce with their backs to the wall. In 2020, Uber Italy ended up in judicial administration after an investigation into the corporal found that Uber Eats exploited vulnerable immigrant workers. Oversight of the company was entrusted to a court-appointed commissioner, and as part of the same investigation, Uber Eats was accused of initiating an "uncontrolled hiring avalanche" during the pandemic.

Publicly, Uber Eats has long been saying that it has a zero tolerance policy towards undocumented workers. In 2019 the company told the New York Times that it has 100 employees in France who carry out random checks to verify that its riders are eligible to work in the country. The French government, however, did not seem reassured by the company's words. In March 2022, Uber Eats and three other home delivery platforms - Frichti, owned by Gorillas, Stuart and Deliveroo - signed a document committing them to carry out weekly checks on the identity of couriers. None of the three companies answered the questions from UK about the number of accounts deactivated following the signing of the document.

However, according to French unions, the closure of accounts does not mean that irregular workers will stop doing business. deliveries: "These irregular immigrants, who had profiles in their name, most of the time obtained thanks to Italian residence permits, will end up renting accounts on the black market", explains Pimot, the president of the CLAP. These accounts, he adds, can be found on Facebook or Snapchat for € 600 a month.

To adequately address the problem, the unions and protesters in Paris are calling for the gig economy to be included in the French "regularization" process. , according to which workers who can prove that they have been in France for three years and that they have 24 pay slips can apply to be considered permanent residents. At the moment, self-employed workers are not covered by the procedure, and people who work for Uber Eats or other platforms do not receive official payslips.

According to supporters of the initiative, the regularization would guarantee the right of irregular riders to work legally in France, while allowing platforms to access the manpower they need. According to Cissoko, moreover, it would be a way to give immigrants security and stability: "I could pay taxes and live in dignity, like all good citizens of this country".

This article originally appeared on UK.

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