By Marcelo Rochabrun
SAO PAULO (Reuters) – More than 1,000 motorcycle food deliverers gathered on Wednesday in São Paulo to protest their working conditions, set by Uber (N:) and other applications, as their services are in high demand due to blockages caused by coronaviruses.
Drivers are looking for better pay and better health measures, as Brazil is now an epicentre of the coronavirus and truck drivers are exposed to the virus.
Motorists were walking on Paulista de Sao Paulo Avenue, the main artery of the city, blocking traffic in one direction. They complained that the demands were paying them less while making them work more, with possible suspension if they did not comply.
The government said this week that half of Brazilians of working age are unemployed due to the record level of the coronavirus crisis, which is pushing more and more citizens into precarious jobs.
This is not the first time that delivery people have taken to the streets to protest against Uber, Rappi from Colombia and iFood from Brazil. But the demonstration appears to be the largest to date.
“They make us work at weekends, every day, or we risk being blocked,” said Felipe Gomes, who delivers for iFood.
Their working conditions also attracted the attention of prosecutors, who launched investigations into all applications and prosecuted iFood.
According to them, the applications offer workers the freedom to set their own schedules and level of commitment. But workers and prosecutors disagree strongly.
“An algorithm determines everything for them: the value of the work, the working hours, even the route to take, and if you don’t agree, there are sanctions,” said Tatiana Simonetti, a Brazilian labour prosecutor. “From the moment they register, they become puppets of the system”.
The business model has been used by Uber all over the world, with much controversy and hindsight, and has been emulated by Rappi and iFood. The companies classify drivers as self-employed, insisting that they are intermediaries between restaurants and delivery people.
Uber declined to comment. iFood and Rappi stated that the workers’ demands had been taken into account and that they would not commit to raising wages in response to the pressure. Rappi said that most workers receive R$18 ($3.38) per hour, although drivers told Reuters that they often receive much less.
Protests were expected to continue into the night, with delivery people riding across town on motorcycles with containers of backpacks bearing company logos.
Rodrigo Gandolfo, vice-president of logistics for iFood, said delivery people are paid about R$20 ($3.77) an hour during rush hours, such as lunch and dinner.
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