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Food Couriers In Malta Raise Concern Over Freelance Model After Drop In Rates Ends In Suspensions

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The independent contractor model that binds food couriers to a delivery company is being questioned after a drop in hourly rates resulted in one driver facing temporary suspension and another being booted out. 

In an attempt to remain competitive in an oversaturated market, Bolt Food has reduced its food courier rates which, according to sources, means drivers can make as little as €3 an hour.

“Most deliveries are under three kilometers and we do an average of one delivery an hour,” a concerned Bolt courier told Lovin Malta.

“By the time you take petrol and running costs, service for the bike and our phone bills into consideration, you’ve spent more money than you’ve earned,” he said. 

Given that they are employed as independent contractors, food couriers are considered nonemployees and are exempt from certain benefits. On the other hand, they are at liberty of choosing their own working hours and conditions.

As a result of the drop in rates, one courier took to internal channels to express his concern and proposed a “peaceful protest” but was faced with a permanent suspension which has since been changed to just 24 hours.

“They need to talk to me and listen so I can understand my rights,” he said.

Another took to social media where he circulated an internal email detailing the new changes and expressing his disappointment with the courier company.

“Sometimes we can spend over an hour waiting for an order to come in because you have too many couriers. Now we can be making as low as €3 an hour.”

“I would like to take this time to say you should be ashamed of yourself,” he said.

Speaking to Lovin Malta, CEO of TXF Tech, the partners for Bolt in Malta, Cyprus & Tunisia Sebastian Ripard welcomed couriers expressing concerns but doing so while toeing the line of company policies.

“It was an error from our side, we should’ve been a bit more sensitive to it but at the time it was a breach of contract.”

“He will have his account reopened. We certainly aren’t going to drop someone for expressing their concern.”

“However, the courier who posted confidential information on social media is a much more serious breach, we will continue to keep that partnership closed,” he said.

Amidst a plummeting economic climate in which many businesses are suffering because of the COVID-19 pandemic, cuts are to be expected.

“A small reduction fee was made of about 30%. We needed to make this change to remain competitive in the marketplace,” he reiterated.

Indeed, the local food courier industry has exploded onto the scene in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic with major companies, including Bolt and Wolt, establishing a foothold on the island. 

As a result, many, including third-country nationals, have leaned on the courier service as their main source of income and in some cases as a supplementary income. They could be facing increased hardships in the future as a result of a market slowdown and cost-saving measures.

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