Gig-economy companies such as Deliveroo are increasingly coining a sort of doublespeak in order to explain their oft-critiqued work practices.
A six-page document seen by Mashable offers a fascinating glimpse into the vocabulary guidelines that Deliveroo, an online takeaway food delivery company, has given to senior members of its UK staff.
The first thing that jumps to the eye is that couriers should be referred to as “independent suppliers” instead of employee/workers/staff members or team members.
That’s because, according to the gig economy model, workers are self-employed contractors rather then employees, with no holiday pay, sick pay and minimum wage.
The list of do’s and don’ts, divided into two columns, gives hints to the staff on how they should talk to or about the couriers and words and sentences to avoid.
For example, in the “do” column: “Riders engage with Deliveroo as independent suppliers to perform services,” as opposed to “Drivers are employed by Deliveroo to complete deliveries”.
The staff is also encouraged to talk about riders’ “availability” rather then shifts.
Instead of saying, “You did not attend a shift,” staff should tell riders “You were unavailable to accept orders at a previously agreed time.” Any absence request is not “holiday” or “time off” but “unavailability.”
Similarly, in informing a rider that he or she was late in starting the shift, senior staff should say: “Yesterday you logged in later than you had agreed to be available.”
Other examples of doublespeak include referring to couriers’ clothing as “kit,” “equipment” or “branded clothing” rather than a uniform; the term “invoices” instead of payslips and “ending supplier agreements between riders and Deliveroo” rather than “firing/sacking/resignation.”
In a statement to Mashable, Deliveroo said: “We have almost 1,000 full-time staff and work with over 15,000 riders in the UK.”
“We ensure that employees know how to work with our partners, which includes training and guidelines to follow when talking to customers, restaurants, and, of course, self-employed riders.”
But the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) which is fighting for the right of union recognition at Deliveroo in Camden and Kentish Town, isn’t buying it.
“This document is further evidence of what the IWGB has been saying all along. Deliveroo is operating a charade with regard to its employment practices,” IWGB’s general secretary Jason Moyer-Lee said.
“It has even found it necessary to create a whole new vocabulary to hide what is blindingly obvious to any objective observer.”
The document has emerged as a group of about 200 Deliveroo couriers are planning legal action against the takeaway food delivery company to claim they’re employees and and win basic employment rights such as sick and holiday pay and the minimum wage.
MPs on the work and pensions committee in the UK have slammed both Uber and Deliveroo on Thursday after releasing copies of the contracts the gig companies give to workers.
The chairman of the committee, Frank Field, called Uber’s contract “gibberish”.