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Deliveroo riders protest “poverty” pay and working conditions
07/04/2021
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Deliveroo

Deliveroo riders are striking across the UK to demand basic workers’ rights in a move that coincides with the food delivery giant’s flagging stock market flotation.

Riders are demanding the living wage, holiday and sick pay, an end to unpaid waiting times, and the right to refuse unsafe work from the world’s most protested app-based platform.

The socially distanced industrial action has been organised by the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) in London, York, Sheffield, Reading, and Wolverhampton to coincide with the company’s initial public offering (IPO) on the London Stock Exchange.

Ahead of its much-anticipated market float on 31 March, an investigation revealed at least one Deliveroo rider receives as little as £2 per hour, a claim that is disputed by the company which argues riders receive between £4 and £5 per order on average and can earn £13 per hour on average at busy times.

Greg Howard, a Deliveroo rider and chair of IWGB’s couriers and logistics branch explained he was going on strike for riders who were struggling to support their families on what he described as “Deliveroo poverty pay”.

“I’ve seen conditions decline for years and then working through lockdown I contracted covid-19 and got very little support from Deliveroo,” he said. “After the pandemic, more people than ever understand this exploitation is no way to treat anyone, let alone key workers.”

Concern over worker conditions led to several major investment firms refusing to invest in the food delivery giant. Last week’s lack of institutional investment resulted in London’s “worst IPO in history” and “a fiasco” as Deliveroo’s valuation dropped from almost £9bn to £5.5bn.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said the shunning of Deliveroo’s float was “a damning indictment of the company’s exploitative business model”. 

“Instead of setting aside hundreds of millions of pounds to fight legal battles on workers’ rights, Deliveroo should just treat its riders fairly and pay them properly,” she said. 

“And if the company thinks it can just cash in on this listing without improving working conditions, it should think again. Deliveroo will face greater scrutiny as a publicly listed company, [with] responsibilities to stakeholders.” 

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

The tech company’s flotation flop forced investment bank Goldman Sachs to prop up the IPO with the purchase of £75m in shares. However, shares rose more than 2% today, the first fully open day of trading for retail investors.

In addition to lengthy litigation, Deliveroo, which has 50,000 riders nationwide, has also come under increasing political pressure both at home and abroad.

In May 2020, a coalition of 44 cross-party MPs, including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Green Party leader Caroline Lucas, and Conservative MP and father of the House Sir Peter Bottomley, wrote to Deliveroo CEO Will Shu endorsing the IWGB’s demands for better working conditions.

Last month, the Spanish government announced new legislation to recognise riders of delivery platforms, such as Deliveroo and UberEats, as employees rather than self-employed contractors.

Meanwhile, Deliveroo competitor Just Eat is to abandon the gig economy model to provide staff with benefits and more workplace protections.

Alex Marshall, IWGB president and former bicycle courier, said: “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.

“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.”

A Deliveroo spokesperson said the “small self-appointed” IWGB union does not represent the majority of its riders who “value the total flexibility” of working with the corporation. 

“Only yesterday we ran a survey and 89% of riders said that they were happy with the company and flexibility was their priority,” they said. “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.”

The company recently launched a £50m communities fund to support riders, restaurant partners, and the local communities in which it operates, as well as a £16m cash “Thank You Fund” across 12 markets with riders eligible based on the number of orders they have delivered.