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Dartford Stuart food courier sub-contracted by JustEat fired over GPS signal inaccuracies

A cycle courier says he has been "sacked by an algorithm" after claiming to have lost his job due to inaccuracies in a GPS tracking system.

James Oram worked for delivery service Stuart – which is used as a sub-contractor by app-based takeaway service JustEat – for two years on his bike in Dartford.

But life in the fast-food lane came to an abrupt halt after the 62-year-old courier had his contract terminated by email last month.

It read: "We are writing to tell you that we are immediately ending the partnership between you and the Stuart platform.

"Several of your deliveries have been flagged for GPS manipulation and blocking. Despite previous reminders, we continue to see a regular pattern in behaviour where your GPS location has been intentionally blocked in order to hide route deviations for the purpose of multi-apping.

"As a result of this you are providing your clients with poor service. We are terminating your account and access to the Stuart app with immediate effect."

However, according to the service's terms and conditions, couriers do not have to take the route recommended by the app and are under no obligation to complete the delivery within the time frame assigned.

James enjoyed working as a delivery man for Stuart. Picture: James Oram
James enjoyed working as a delivery man for Stuart. Picture: James Oram

Mr Oram said: "It is ludicrous to think I would deliberately block a GPS signal. I would not even know how.

"There were no problems with the deliveries in question. The GPS signal was inaccurate in providing real-time locations.

"I have been sacked by an algorithm. I have had my way of life unceremoniously cut off by a piece of software for no reason.

"My first feeling when I saw the email, I was a bit numb, I was in a bit of a daze. It was devastating.

"It was also quite worrying that this is the way society is going. There is no people involved in this process, just computers. It is like Little Britain 'computer says no'.

"It was just so final. My work life has been terminated. I go into town now and I feel as though I am on the outside looking in."

James says he is devastated to have lost his job
James says he is devastated to have lost his job

He added: "My life has been cut off by a machine. In 2020 it was lockdown imposed by the government. It is now 2023 and I feel my life has now been locked down by machine."

The 62-year-old has attempted to appeal the decision but his application was rejected within seven hours, despite being told it would take a week.

He said there was no opportunity to explain or defend himself and he was simply asked for his name, courier identification number and to upload photographic evidence which he does not have.

The bicycle messenger has since tried to contact the Stuart support team but says he has only received automated messages redirecting him back to the appeals procedure.

He has also been told there is no phone number he can call – unless he wants to speak to the sales team.

"I am not sure what I am going to do now," the Eton Way resident added. "I am facing the serious prospect of losing my home as I may have to sell it now I do not have a job.

"I have heard it has happened to other people. It is a computer system monitoring you not a person. This could have been resolved with a five-minute phone call.

"The future of technology does worry me. It should be available for us to use in order to improve our lives. Not for it to dictate and cause untold misery to innocent people.

He used to deliver in and around Dartford town centre. Picture: Matthew Walker
He used to deliver in and around Dartford town centre. Picture: Matthew Walker

"The staff who try to help are unable to. There is no filing cabinet with a folder containing my details to refer to. Technology is not only making them redundant but impotent too."

And he is not the only one to have fallen victim to problems in the gig economy.

Last year, The Guardian reported dozen of Stuart couriers across the country had also had their partnerships terminated in the same way.

President of The Independent Workers' Union of Great Britain (IWGB), Alex Marshall, told its sister paper The Observer: "The decision to use this GPS system is about cutting costs for Stuart but the ramifications for couriers are huge. People are losing their livelihoods in an instant and those that are still working are putting their lives at risk."

Mr Oram says he is devastated to have lost his position in the company as it was a "fantastic" job.

He added: "You meet so many people and get to know all the business owners and customers. It is one of those jobs where I thought all jobs should be like this.

"You have got to enjoy it and I did so that is why this is so frustrating."

Stuart did not respond to a request for comment.

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