ifeelstock - stock.adobe.com
Hundreds of Deliveroo riders across the UK are refusing to make deliveries in protest of poor pay and work conditions, as the company begins its first day of trading on the London Stock Exchange (LSE).
Deliveroo riders organised under the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) went on strike on 7 April 2021 to demand a guaranteed living wage; an end to over-hiring and unpaid waiting times, as well as holiday and sick pay.
Riders are also demanding that Deliveroo provides better safety at work, more transparency over its fees and algorithms, agrees to collective bargaining, and sets up a fair process for terminations.
“I’m going on strike for my basic rights and those of all the other riders struggling to get by and support families on Deliveroo poverty pay. I’ve seen conditions decline for years, and working through lockdown I contracted Covid-19 and got very little support from Deliveroo,” said Deliveroo rider and chair of the IWGB’s Couriers & Logistics Branch, Greg Howard.
“After the pandemic, more people than ever understand this exploitation is no way to treat anyone, let alone key workers. The turning of the tide is clear. It’s time for rights for riders.”
The strike action is taking place in York, Sheffield, Reading and Wolverhampton, and includes a staged ‘ride-along’ through London to the firm’s HQ.
It follows an analysis of 300 rider invoices by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which revealed that Deliveroo pays one in three riders less than £8.72 an hour – the national minimum wage for over 25s – and some as little as £2 an hour.
These findings, which were made public on 23 March, pre-empted Deliveroo’s initial public offering (IPO), which was targeting a market capitalisation of £8.8bn.
Following UK fund managers Aviva Investors and Aberdeen Standard announcing in late March that they will not buy Deliveroo shares ahead of its IPO because of concerns over workers’ rights, a number of other investment firms – including BMO Global, CCLA, Legal & General, Rathbones and Hargreaves Lansdown – also indicated that they will not be investing in the company.
Although Deliveroo’s float is still London’s biggest IPO since mining giant Glencore went public in 2011, it is widely regarded as a flop after shares slumped as much as 30% and its overall valuation plummeted to £5.5bn.
Since the UK Supreme Court ruled on 19 February that Uber must reclassify its drivers as workers rather than self-employed individuals, other platforms operating in the gig economy have come under increasing pressure to do the same for their own couriers and riders.
As a result of the decision, Uber’s workers are now entitled to be paid the national minimum wage, to receive statutory minimum holiday pay and rest breaks, as well as protection from unlawful discrimination and whistleblowing – although Uber has since diverged from the court’s interpretation that drivers should be paid from when they log in, not just when passengers are on board.
“Deliveroo presents a false choice between flexibility and basic rights, but the Uber ruling showed that here as well as abroad, workers can have both. That is the least they deserve and what the public expects for our frontline workers,” said IWGB president and former bicycle courier Alex Marshall ahead of the strike.
“They said it couldn’t be done, but by getting organised and speaking out, riders have triggered a domino effect which already slashed £3bn from Deliveroo’s valuation, and that should give pause to any corporation that thinks precarious workers can be endlessly exploited without consequence. It’s time for Deliveroo to do the right thing, recognise its riders as workers and treat them like human beings.”
In response to the strikes, Deliveroo said it had surveyed 8,500 riders on 6 April, claiming nearly nine in 10 responded that they were satisfied working for the company.
“This small self-appointed union does not represent the vast majority of riders who tell us they value the total flexibility they enjoy while working with Deliveroo alongside the ability to earn over £13 an hour,” said a Deliveroo spokesperson.
“Only today (Tuesday) we ran a survey and 88% of riders said that they were happy with the company and flexibility was their priority. We are proud that rider satisfaction is at an all-time high and that thousands of people are applying to be Deliveroo riders each and every week.
“Riders are at the heart of our business, and today we are beginning a new consultation with riders about how we should invest our new £50m community fund.”
With up to 50,000 riders, it is unclear what percentage are currently refusing to make deliveries.
However, in August 2020, the Centre for Employment Relations, Innovation and Change at Leeds University Business School found that, from an analysis of 527 gig economy-related protest incidents between 1 January 2017 and 20 May 2020, “the company with most incidents was Deliveroo, which accounted for more than a quarter of all protest events (28.5%)”.
According to reports in the BCC, Deliveroo’s shares rose more than 2% to 286p on 7 April when the stock market opened up for retail investors, but are still well below the 390p offer price from a week earlier.
Read more about worker’s rights
- A Dutch court has rejected Uber and Ola’s claims that drivers collectively taking action to access their data amounts to an abuse of their individual data access rights, laying the ground for drivers to form their own union-controlled data trust.
- Private hire driver and union organiser Yaseen Aslam speaks to Computer Weekly about his legal battle with Uber and what the UK Supreme Court ruling means to workers in the gig economy.
- Employees at software startup Glitch have signed a collective bargaining agreement with the company via their union, which claims this is the first time such a deal has been signed by white-collar tech workers in the US.