Instacart workers threaten strike over coronavirus pay, protections

Instacart workers threaten strike over coronavirus pay, protections
Posted at 3:49 PM, Mar 29, 2020

Workers for the grocery delivery service Instacart plan to strike Monday over what they say has been a lack of safety precautions and protective measures from the company during the coronavirus crisis .

A blog post on Medium claims workers and the activist group Gig Workers Collective have been urging Instacart to improve its safety measures for weeks but they have been ignored.

The workers allege Instacart is leaving employees vulnerable to contracting or spreading COVID-19 while profiting greatly off of the increase in people who are using the service because they are either quarantined or self-isolating.

“Shoppers have had enough. Instacart has refused to act proactively in the interests of its Shoppers, customers, and public health, so we are forced to take matters into our own hands,” the blog post states . “We will not continue to work under these conditions. We will not risk our safety, our health, or our lives for a company that fails to adequately protect us, fails to adequately pay us, and fails to provide us with accessible benefits should we become sick.”

A request for comment from the Gig Workers Collective on how many workers it expects to participate in the strike was not immediately returned.

Instacart issued a policy earlier in March that provides up to 14 days of pay for hourly employees and full-service shoppers who are diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed in isolation or quarantine, “as directed by a local, state, or public health authority.”

Workers, however, argue the qualifications for pay protections are too narrow and purposefully exclude many who need assistance.

In order to avoid a strike, the group issued four demands:

  • Personal protective equipment such as hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes provided at no cost to workers.
  • An extra $5 per order in hazard pay and changing the in-app tip default amount to at least 10% of the order total.
  • Expand pay protections for workers impacted by COVID-19 to include anyone who has a doctor’s note for either a pre-existing condition that’s a known risk factor or requiring a self-quarantine.
  • Extend the deadline for COVID-19 pay benefits beyond April 8.

Instacart later released updated safety measures , including the extension of COVID-19 pay protections through May 8. The updated measures did not expand the pay protections or address the other two demands.

A representative for Instacart said the health and safety of customers, shoppers and employees is the company’s top priority.

“Our goal is to offer a safe and flexible earnings opportunity to shoppers, while also proactively taking the appropriate precautionary measures to operate safely. We want to underscore that we absolutely respect the rights of shoppers to provide us feedback and voice their concerns,” the representative said in a statement on Sunday. “It’s a valuable way for us to continuously make improvements to the shopper experience and we’re committed to supporting this important community during this critical time.”

In addition to extending pay protections to May, Instacart is offering bonuses between $25 and $200 to in-store shoppers, shift leads, and site managers. The company also announced contactless alcohol delivery, in-app incident reporting and several other measures.