Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been great controversy with regards to the role of delivery apps like Uber Eats, Rappi, Glovo, and PedidosYa in Latin America. In countries like Argentina where delivery drivers have been granted the permission to circulate freely, people have shown concern about the safety and health conditions.
In Peru, where delivery drivers were forbidden from working up until some days ago, many people reacted negatively when this decision was announced. Some argued that it will cause the virus to spread further, while others criticized the conditions in which delivery drivers would have to work. However, the truth of the situation is far more complicated.
According to the Peruvian Instituto Nacional de Estadística e Informática (INEI), 72.6% of the workforce has informal jobs. This has forced great part of the population to break the quarantine and ignore the government’s directives in order to generate income for their families. To some, the decision of allowing delivery drivers to go back to work was particularly beneficial, as it meant that they could now generate income for their families.
Many small restaurants were also granted the opportunity to keep working thanks to delivery platforms. In Colombia, Rappi announced that they will charge no commission to small and independent restaurants. They have also began a campaign to provide them with greater visibility on the platform, as well as providing the option of donating to these restaurants through the app.
Despite providing a platform for small and independent restaurants, and much needed job opportunities for informal workers, the truth is that these delivery apps do not provide adequate safety and health conditions to their drivers. This was already true before the pandemic, and it has aggravated the problem now that safety measures are needed more than ever.
In Argentina, delivery drivers who work for these platforms do not have health insurance coverage. Furthermore, there is no legal framework that regulates this kind of economic activity. Therefore, each company adopts their own policies and regulations. The situation is similar for other countries in Latin America.
Because these companies are not regulated by the state, they are providing their drivers with only a pair of gloves and a small alcohol gel bottle. Many drivers said that they were forced to buy the rest of the needed medical supplies in order to carry out their jobs without putting people’s health at risk.
This has led delivery drivers all around Latin America to organise multiple strikes to demand job security. On April 22, unions from Argentina, Ecuador, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Peru and Spain organized an international strike. They demanded a 100% raise per order, and the provision of necessary medical supplies.
The demand remains as there have been no changes to their situation. On May 8th, multiple caravans were organised around Argentina after the Agrupación de Trabajadores de Reparto (Delivery Workers Association) summoned the first delivery workers assembly.
After they summoned a second assembly, they decided to organize a second strike with multiple caravans around the country that took place on May 29th. After the assembly, they added more demands, requesting justice for those who died or were injured working during the pandemic, health insurance coverage and the restitution of the accounts that we blocked for unfair reasons.
It is no surprise that some have tried to solve the problem through their own initiatives. In Mexico platforms like B2eat, Savorly, and Clip are helping small restaurants and cooks who lost their jobs due to the pandemic to sell through their platforms without charging any commissions.
In Argentina, some delivery drivers have gathered and decided to work under their own self-managed independent groups. ACAB(A) is one of these groups who has gained popularity through Instagram. They have also began to work with small and medium businesses that needed a delivery service to continue running during the pandemic.
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