Food delivery men say they’re exploited

UberEats, MrD Food and OrderIn pay from R15 a delivery

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Photo of food delivery vehicles
Immigrants working for food delivery companies complained about how little money they make. Photo: Tariro Washinyira

Immigrants working for food delivery companies like Uber Eats, MrD Food, and OrderIn as independent contractors say they are exploited. Often they use their own motorbikes, pay their own insurance and may earn as little as R15 a delivery.

Men from Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Burundi and DRC say they are in this kind of business because they are desperate.

Two of the three companies responded to GroundUp, but only one answered our questions on pay and working conditions. That company said that it was unlikely the drivers were not making profit.

Francois (name changed) is Congolese. He has a degree in accounting “but with an asylum document it is difficult to get an accounting job,” he says. He works for Uber Eats, operating on the Woodstock-Wynberg route. When he spoke to us in Rondebosch last week he was about to pick up an order. He is paid R14 for picking up food and R1.20 thereafter per kilometre. He asked not to be named.

“I really don’t like this job but I am doing it because there is nothing else to do and my family needs to be taken care of. I have been with Uber for three months. Making profit is dependent on how hard I’m working. I stay online nonstop, from 9am to 11pm. Data and petrol are expensive. Customers don’t really tip. The only benefit I get from Uber is an app,” he said.

He wishes Uber would help him with insurance in case of an accident. He says many drivers have been involved in accidents.

Samantha Allenberg, Uber spokesperson, said, “Uber Eats offers people, who want access to flexible opportunities, the opportunity to make some extra money delivering great local food.” She did not respond to our questions about pay rates or insurance, but suggested we contact other delivery companies.

Explaining the need for insurance, a Burundian man said he was involved in an accident in 2014 and still had trouble with his leg. He said OrderIn had refused to help at the time. “It would be better if the company would contribute towards insurance. We are on our own.”

“Since 2014 when I started doing this work I still get R20 for a delivery. In our last negotiations the company said if we are not happy with their offer we can leave,” he said.

OrderIn did not respond to questions sent by GroundUp, despite emails and several telephone calls.

A Rwandan delivery man said, “When it’s raining my job becomes more dangerous and I sometimes become involved in accidents. We have mates seriously injured, some even dying. But we do not have an option.”

The man who is contracted to MrD Food said that after deducting operating costs such as fuel, data, motorbike maintenance he battled to clear R800 a week.

Mark Musto, National Franchise Operations Manager for, which owns MrD Food, said delivery services were provided by independent contractors, who were offered a “willing buyer/willing seller” service rate before signing a contract.

He said contractors were paid between R15 and R27 per delivery, “depending on a number of factors”.

“Some independent contractors are supplied with a vehicle and receive a lower delivery rate. Some supply their own vehicles and deliver services further away, so they receive a higher rate.”

“Independent contractors work in a small prescribed radius, it’s unlikely that the independent contractors are not making profit.”

He said the company’s research suggested the drivers travelled on average 6km or less from collection to delivery. A Honda PCX150 motorbike, for example, could make 45 deliveries on a single tank of fuel, Musto said, “a clear indication that it is a profitable partnership”.

“In addition, 100% of all tips are also paid to independent contractors.”

Musto said, “We increase the rate yearly according to the country’s inflation rate and we make sure our partners comply.”

“The company is willing to assist independent contractors to obtain insurance on their vehicles, it sounds like a wonderful upliftment project and we look forward to engaging with the drivers to further this discussion,” Musto said.

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Write a letter in response to this article


Dear Editor

I would like to add on the food delivery fee exploitation happening to myself and fellow men, with Mr D courier. It is not only the fee, even the work environment, especially with the Johannesburg franchise owner Warren Tiluge. He owns about 10 branches in the Gauteng including Hatfield, Centurion, Fourways and Edenvale.

Mr Tiluge is ruthless. He can hire you and fire you in the the same breath. It's hard enough to wake up very day as early as 5am. The worst is to get to meet a boss who screams, insults and use vulgar language to his staff/ contractors so early in the morning.

Mr Tiluga has a fining policy, if you fail to appear on shift for what so ever reason sick, death/ family responsibility or breakdown, you are penalised R50 to R500. The fines we pay are usually three to four times the fee we are paid per delivery.

I read what Mark Musto says about drivers being paid anything between R15-R27 per delivery and that they as Mr D increase their fees annually. To my knowledge the delivery fee of R15 has been the same for the past 2-3years and the same for food which has been R22.50.

What is upsetting is that Mr Musto says fees are revised annually yet in 2015, the fees were actually R20.00 for takealot parcel and prices have come down since, instead of going up. Not long ago Warren advised us that fees will be going up by R0.50 and it’s a take it or leave it offer. This man is so abusive there are no words.

It’s true the majority of men working in these courier companies are desperate foreigners and I believe the franchise owners take serious advantage. Local men come and work a week and they leave, otherwise strike but they can’t convince the numbers needed to protest because most of us foreigners need the money and bread for our families.

Dear Editor

I've work with Mr Delivery for more than a year now. I opted to leave without prior notification due to the kind of maltreatment towards the drivers.

I worked at the centurion franchise. The director is a very ruthless person and was nonchalant regarding the health of drivers.
The independent contractors are the most affected. We are paid R22.50 flat rate for delivery no matter the distance covered unlike what is stated here. You are forced to pick the food if you reject it. Then you will be given a R50 or R100 fines for not accepting the food.

This is why drivers are exposed to high risk accidents. It's true that recently the service charge for food delivery is R15 on the app but who bears the cost? the restaurant bears the rest.

Do not be surprised if you buy food and the quantity is different from when you walk into the restaurant.

Dear Editor

I have been a driver with takealot for 6 months and I have failed to make decent profit from delivering takealot parcels. You get paid R15 per parcels and sometimes you have to deliver 4 to 5 parcels but it is counted as one delivery. This means you worked for R225 using your own petrol and airtime/data to call takealot customers, and so you can use their App. At the end of the day, you realize you have made about R70 in profit, now thats exploitation considering you still have to pay for your own insurance and regular tyre and brake changes.

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