Euphemism: in·de·pend·ent sup·pli·er (n.)

Deliveroo's workers and other "uberised" bike messengers take part in a demonstration in Bordeaux, southwestern France, on March 15, 2017 on the day of a negotiation between Uber and VTC drivers (transport car with driver) regarding rates. / AFP PHOTO / GEORGES GOBETGEORGES GOBET/AFP/Getty Images


Deliveroo workers and other “Uberized” bike messengers at a demonstration in Bordeaux in southwestern France.


In the so-called gig economy, companies avoid giving the impression that anyone actually works for them — and they’ll torture the language to do it. Hence “independent supplier,” which turns up in a leaked document from the British food-delivery company Deliveroo. It revealed an entire alternate vocabulary to be used by and about the company’s couriers, including “onboarding” rather than “hiring” and “working with Deliveroo” rather than “working for Deliveroo.”

That prepositional choice is no accident. It relates to Deliveroo’s embrace of “independent supplier,” an even more slippery version of the US term “independent contractor,” which at least acknowledges a contractual relationship. But “contract” is another of Deliveroo’s unmentionables — it pushes the term “supplier agreement” instead. Employees have legal rights; independent suppliers instead get noncommittal mumbo-jumbo.

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