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Coles to put 500 plus stores on Uber Eats in major gig economy expansion

Coles to put 500 plus stores on Uber Eats in major gig economy expansion

More than 500 Coles supermarkets nationwide will start selling goods on Uber Eats under a pact between the two companies that kicks off with 40 stores in Melbourne and involves gig economy workers going into stores to pick and pack customers’ groceries from the shelves.

Under the terms of the deal, Coles’ customers will be able to place their order via Uber Eats and have their groceries delivered within an hour. However, the arrangement will also see gig-economy workers – with no right to a minimum wage – doing key tasks for one of the country’s largest companies.

The initiative between Coles and Uber will start with 40 stores in Melbourne.

The initiative between Coles and Uber will start with 40 stores in Melbourne.Credit: Oscar Coleman

The tie-up with Coles is a big win for Uber, which was already Australia’s dominant food delivery company, and has now cemented its position in the grocery delivery market by signing up the major retailer. Coles has relied on its own drivers and well as Uber rival DoorDash to deliver groceries until now.

The partnership, long planned but confirmed after rapid supermarket delivery start-up Milkrun announced on Tuesday that it was folding, was launched on Thursday with varying delivery fees at 40 Melbourne Coles outlets. It will roll out to more than 500 Coles stores over coming months.

“Customers can continue to enjoy great value and quality produce they find at Coles, but with the convenience of on-demand delivery through Uber Eats,” said Claire Pallot, a Coles executive.

It puts Coles on a level playing field with rival Woolworths, which has used Uber for deliveries from its Metro60 brand since it was launched in June last year. But Coles’ partnership will reach more customers than any other on Uber Eats, according to a statement from both firms.

The move puts Uber’s riders and drivers in effective competition with Coles’ own workforce of delivery drivers and order packers. Unlike Coles staff, Uber couriers have no minimum guaranteed wage or leave entitlements.

A spokeswoman for Coles said the partnership had been launched in response to “overwhelming” demand for online orders that had already led to it hiring extra staff, buying more delivery vans and optimising its routes. Uber Eats, Coles said, would complement rather than compete with its existing services.

“Coles team members are not impacted by this partnership and there is a clear distinction between the roles of Coles team members and third-party courier pickers,” the spokeswoman said.

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Uber has long argued that its workers value the flexibility of choosing their own hours and receive fair pay.

Josh Cullinan, secretary of the Retail and Fast Food Workers Union, said the pact was “ringing alarm bells” and would worry Coles staff.

“Using Uber in the way that’s being described would appear to fundamentally undermine the minimum conditions … for pickers, packers and drivers working for Coles,” said Cullinan.

Coles and Uber have separate pacts with the Transport Workers Union, which is much larger than RAFFWU and has been critical of the gig economy sector, but welcomed the presence of Uber couriers at Coles.

“Today’s announcement is a potential breakthrough for embedding decency at the heart of on-demand work,” said Michael Kaine, the union’s national secretary. “A major company like Coles would only take this step because it was confident that core industry standards will be upheld.”

The union’s pact with Coles requires it to ensure any “on demand” workers such as Uber riders receive “appropriate payments” as well as other entitlements, union representation and superannuation. Uber and the union have agreed to work together to back minimum standards for the gig industry, as the federal government has proposed, but not legislated.

“We will monitor this hawkishly to make sure it lives up to its potential,” Kaine said in a statement.

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In a brief statement, an Uber spokeswoman said: “We’re excited to be extending our partnership with Coles to bring the largest national on-demand grocery delivery offering to Aussie customers, with thousands of fresh produce and everyday grocery items available for order on-demand.”

Uber and Coles first attempted a partnership in 2019, allowing Uber Eats orders from a handful of supermarkets, but it fizzled out.

DoorDash’s local boss, Rebecca Burrows, would not comment directly on Coles’ tie-up with Uber, but said her company was “thrilled” to be offering the supermarket’s products on its app, which will continue despite the Uber partnership.

“As the demand for home delivery increases, DoorDash is recognising the need to provide even more advanced, reliable and accessible grocery options,” Burrows said in a statement.

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