Food delivery and passenger service drivers and are forced to follow the company apps. But if apps miscalculate and send drivers in the wrong direction, or lower wages for drivers stuck in traffic, it’s the driver who loses wages, or is even booted from the platform. The latest episode of My Boss Is a Robot shows that for app-based companies, these are not bugs–they are built into an algorithmic system designed to move money from workers and into the pockets of the rich corporate bosses.
From Thailand, delivery driver Niap Chunti Ta Kai See Kun tells Podcast Host and Solidarity Center Executive Director Shawna Bader-Blau that the app often shows his destination far closer than it really is–sometimes indicating a route straight through buildings.
“The distance in the Google Map, for an example, is five kilometers, but the distance in the application map is always shorter, like three kilometers,” he says. “I think that’s not a mistake, they intend to do that because that will reduce the pay and that will reduce the cost for the application. The shorter the distance, the less they have to pay us. But the longer the distance, the more they have to pay us.”
Drivers also work long hours and rush between deliveries because if they don’t, the app punishes them by lowering pay.
“And that’s why you see some drivers died on the wheel,” says Lawal Ayobami, an app-based driver in Nigeria. “There was no rest for the driver. They don’t even go to their family. They’re on the road because they want to make money.”
Delivery Drivers Stand Up for Their Rights
Delivery drivers around the world are standing up for their rights: Earlier this year, Nigeria’s Ministry of Labor recognized the Amalgamated Union of App-Based Transport Workers of Nigeria after delivery drivers organized in cities across the country.
“That means workers like Ayobami will begin to get the protections and benefits they deserve in this highly unregulated and informal sector,” says Bader-Blau.
“My Boss Is a Robot” is a six-part series that seeks to shine a light on the behind-the-scenes practices of app companies who exploit workers in the global gig economy. Download the latest episode, Gaming the System: App Workers Rarely Win, and watch for the next episode on October 11.
Listen to this episode and all Solidarity Center episodes here or at Spotify, Amazon, Stitcher or wherever you subscribe to your favorite podcasts.