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Food deliveries on the rise

Firms in the Helsinki area have already dispatched some one million restaurant meals since the beginning of the year. But while business is booming, the people who deliver the food generally aren't covered by collective labour agreements and work for low wages.

Ruokalähetti vauhdissa.
Sidney Kitchen cycles meals around Helsinki to the tune of 50 kilometres a day. Image: Yle

There's a relative newcomer to Helsinki's restaurant scene -- takeaway delivery services. Though such services have long been popular in other parts of the world, they have only recently landed on Finnish shores.

Helsinki residents can order online, a courier picks it up from the restaurant and brings it to the customer's door.

Behind the services lies an army of mainly foreign drivers and riders, like Sidney Kitchen (yes, that’s his real name) from Canada.

Kitchen works at Foodora - who say that most of their staff are on some kind of contract, and receive pre-agreed numbers of shifts, paid sick leave and extra pay for working Sundays.

“I do about 50 kilometres a day and this affects how I feel as I can be outside every day and enjoy it. You get a lot out of it... even if it's terrible weather, you're still somehow enjoying it,” says Kitchen, who has been cycling meals for Foodora in Helsinki since last September.

“I don’t do this work just for the paycheck, but also because of the physical and emotional satisfaction," he says.

Those who have a contract with Foodora are paid 9 euros an hour, 11 euros an hour on Saturdays, and 18 euros an hour on Sundays. Commissions are paid only to freelancers, who earn 8 euros an hour.

Is this the government's vision of the startup economy?

It's perhaps exactly the sort of business governments have had in mind when they talk about encouraging innovation and startups, to give a boost to jobs and the economy.

Foodora's competitor, Wolt, says they use zero-hours contracts, where workers are used as and when required, and are responsible for their own social security payments, with no sick leave.

Jake Savolainen, who says he takes home about 1200 euros a month from a 30-hour work week, says he gladly signed up, even knowing what the terms are.

For the government, battling with the country's unions to loosen their conditions of employment, the continuing growth in popularity of services like these is a sign of how to bring growth and jobs. But opponents of the changes point to the lack of security, and the weakening of workers' rights.

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