Workers at the takeaway delivery company Deliveroo celebrated a victory last week as they forced management to back down over its plans to introduce new rates of pay.
The changes would have seen drivers, who are nominally self-employed, earn £3.75 a delivery. The previous rate was £7 an hour plus £1 a delivery.
The six-day strike brought up demands that went beyond defending the original pay rate, such as a real living wage and union recognition.
It has also exposed the weakness of the Deliveroo bosses’ position—bosses have opened a hornet’s nest which is proving difficult to close.
William Shu, Deliveroo CEO, completely missed the point in an interview last weekend. “We didn’t communicate in the most effective manner at all,” he said.
But workers understood exactly what the new proposals meant. Even under the old system some would earn as little as £40 for a 12-hour shift.
The company pays nothing towards workers’ pensions, does not pay for sick leave, and contributes nothing to the cost of repairing bikes and scooters.
Shu dismissed demands that the firm should treat workers as workers and not as contractors.
Arguing for a more “flexible” attitude to employment law, he said, “In the economy as a whole you’re going to see more of this kind of work. There are laws drawn up years ago that may be less relevant for today’s economy.”
The dispute has shown that workers’ self-activity is the best defence against bad pay and poor conditions.
Deliveroo workers didn’t wait for a ballot before taking action—and were stronger for not delaying.
This win has also shown that “precarious” workers can fight back, organise and unionise.
In a brief moment of clarity, Shu admitted, “Without the riders, we’d have no business.”
One striker said, “This strike has exposed Deliveroo and their methods for what they really are. A week ago Deliveroo were forcing us to sign a new contract under the immediate threat of losing our jobs.”