A majority of food delivery workers active in Brussels are in the country illegally, have no papers and no protection against exploitation, Le Soir reports.
Food deliveries have become second nature to most of the inhabitants of the capital, all the more so since the coronavirus lockdown closed restaurants but did nothing to take away people’s appetite for food cooked by someone else.
The result is a swarm of bicycle couriers (and sometimes their engine-powered counterparts) on the streets of the city. But who are those people?
The main platforms are Uber Eats and Deliveroo. At first, one experienced rider told the paper, it was a job with promise: he worked for both platforms on and off, had decent hours and made good money.
But the more the platforms grew, the more applicants came calling. Competition for slots was tougher.
More importantly, employers started to realise what they were dealing with: a workforce made up of a substantial number of illegal workers, who suddenly found they had no rights, no protection and no bargaining power.
Now the payment for one delivery is a flat €5, the witness said, when it used to be based on a kilometre rate. The return journey after a delivery is at the cost of the rider.
Another cost: the illegals who work for the two companies have to pay a fee to the people from whom they ‘rent’ their fake identities – a minimum of 20% of earnings, and often more. That allows them to log on to the work computer under a false name, meaning they don’t show up in accounting.
“Undocumented delivery men today make up the majority of the workforce of the platforms in Brussels,” said Nada Ladraa, who works for the MOC (the Christian Workers’ Movement), which is at the origin of the Brussels movement “Couriers in Trouble”.
She insists on the fact that “beyond their large number, they constitute the backbone of these services because they have no other choice than to work from morning to evening, often seven days a week. They are still available for the platforms.”
“The worsening of working conditions and tariffs is at the origin of the change made about two years ago, reinforced by the epidemic of Covid: not many people want to do this job, and those who remain often have no other options.”