Checkers Sixty60 motorcycles are now ubiquitous on the city streets. Photo: Tariro Washinyira, GroundUp
- Motorbike-based express grocery delivery services have increased exponentially since the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Checkers Sixty60 promises to deliver groceries within an hour of ordering. Drivers are independent contractors with few of the normal rights of employees.
- Employment lawyers say the way their work is organized puts their lives at risk.
While many people are interested in the ease and speed of supermarket food delivery services, others on social media are talking about the many motorbikes being delivered on city streets, calling them on Twitter “the new scourge of our country” and “outlaws on the road.”
Although Pick n Pay, Woolworths and other big box stores also make deliveries, the most visible of these – on the streets of Cape Town at least – are the Checkers Sixty60 motorcycles. Other supermarkets do not offer the same time guarantee. Woolies Dash is a same day delivery service for Woolworths, while Pick n Pay ASAP “strives” to deliver the order “in less than 60 minutes from the time you place your order”.
Sixty 60 Service guarantee [‘no matter the weather’] Customers are granted free delivery if the order arrives more than 30 minutes after the estimated time of arrival. This guarantee is funded by Sixty60 and drivers are not penalized for late deliveries.”
However, a motorcyclist we spoke to – who delivers from 7:00 to 19:00 at Checkers De Grendel – said: “If a customer complains, they’ll deduct R200. It’s a tough job. It’s bad on the road, especially when it’s raining and when it’s dark.” “.
These discounts are not head office policy and we have not been able to verify his claim.
Another delivery rider, at Checkers Rondebosch, told us he “loves” his job, because it provides for his whole family. He works five days a week from 7:00 to 18:00. After 18:00, he was working as an Uber driver.
He prides himself on never being late. “I always deliver in under 60 minutes,” he says.
He is paid per order, between R25 and R30. He earns R3000 per week, making 20 to 24 deliveries per day on average.
His bike was purchased on a lease agreement with an associated service contract at R270 per week over 12 months (approximately R14,000). He has a uniform and a rain suit from Checkers Sixty60, which he paid R1,000 for.
“We are on our own. No work, no pay. We don’t get employee benefits,” he said.
One labor lawyer says the hiring structure for supermarket delivery contractors “allegedly forces employees to take as many trips as possible putting their lives at risk”. (Photo: Ashraf Hendricks, Ground Up)
As with the others Food couriersGrocery delivery drivers are not seen as employees of Checkers, but as “independent contractors”.
“The way the recruitment is organized is very bad in that it forces the alleged employees to make as many trips as possible putting their lives at risk,” said Michael Pagram, Bagram’s solicitor and MP for the Democratic Alliance.
He added, “I think someone should come forward and try to contest it. As independent contractors, they don’t get any benefits whatsoever and they don’t have the protection of our labor law.”
Checkers Sixty60 says it is confident it can “check [from the shelves] and delivering customer orders in less than 60 minutes without compromising the safety of the driver,” and “driver safety is a priority” when implementing and reviewing its delivery network.
It also states that drivers are “subject to a thorough pre-contract inspection process” and that “delivery vehicles comply with the legal requirements necessary for their use on public roads and for the provision of this service”. Ad hoc “compliance check” inspections are conducted.
“Drivers receive comprehensive on-board training covering a wide range of aspects including safety protocols and incident procedures, defensive as well as anti-hijack driving techniques,” it says.
Checkers Sixty60 says it is confident it can “pick up customer orders and deliver them in less than 60 minutes without compromising driver safety.” (Photo: Ashraf Hendricks, Ground Up)
Regarding employment, Checkers says: “Drivers are independent contractors; drivers receive a fee based on their contractual agreement to provide the service, and are therefore not salaried employees.”
Pick n Pay says, “We have outsourced all delivery and collection arrangements to third-party service providers.”
They are already providing a service as entrepreneurs; they are not recognized as employees. And if they are injured and unfairly dismissed, they have their own procedures. Use labor courts or negotiation board.
“Therefore, it is very difficult for us to help them… Legally, we cannot organize them in Saccawu, because technically they are not employees. There are no guarantees that protect them under the Labor Relations Act. Basically, unions represent employees, independent contractors are not employees.”
He said the Labor Department had indicated that there were informal discussions about independent contractors, but that those talks were in their early stages.
“The policy is created by the Ministry of Labor and it should start at the government level, the trade unions will be part of the stakeholders who will discuss this matter, but the initiator will be the government,” said Choiti.
But Bagrim says: “The law is quite clear. If anyone works more than 24 hours in one month for the same employer and wages less than R21,000 a month, then as time goes on it automatically becomes permanent employees.
“Many so-called employers go out of their way to sign independent contractor agreements with these people to try to sidestep labor laws altogether. The courts are very harsh in determining whether a person is actually an employee or an independent contractor.
“In this particular case, I think they will be hard-pressed to prove that they are true independent contractors. Unless drivers work for two companies at different times, they cannot be said to be independent contractors.”