Deliveroo riders in many parts of Britain struck and rallied on Wednesday demanding workers’ rights, enhanced safety and an end to poverty pay.
The action was timed to coincide with the date that Deliveroo started public trading on the stock market.
In London striking riders assembled at Shoreditch High Street station in their company jackets. They moved off in convoy, bicycles at the front and scooters behind, and took a long route to the bosses’ headquarters.
Around 300 went to Goldman Sachs, Deliveroo’s stock market flotation partners. They chanted, “Shame on you, Shame on Roo.”
And then, smoke flares billowing, the angry riders went to the stock exchange.
“I’m delivering food, but then I’m using a foodbank,” rider Surjit told Socialist Worker.
“There’s been so much work delivering food during the pandemic and people probably think we’re coining it in. But it’s Deliveroo that makes the money, not us.”
The strikers are members of the IWGB union. The union says that its exposure of Deliveroo’s employment practices contributed to the disastrous launch of the firm on the stock market last week.
Protests also took place in York, Sheffield, Aylesbury, Reading and Wolverhampton—and in other countries.
York Deliveroo rider Ethan Bradley told The Big Issue magazine, "We need basic security of earnings. I’ve had many weeks when I’ve lost sleep at night because I don’t know how much I’m going to make the following week because the pandemic means demand goes up and down.
“I don’t know if I’m going to be able to make the rent next week, or pay the bills. Many riders have family, have dependents and have kids to feed. This would mean so much to them.”
Many riders say they are paid less than the minimum wage when waiting time between orders is taken into account.
This means they can be left standing outside in all weathers for hours unpaid.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism analysed thousands of invoices from more than 300 riders over the past year. It showed that one in three made on average less than £8.72, the national minimum wage for over 25s, for their overall time per session in the app.
Some earned even less. A cyclist in Yorkshire was logged in for 180 hours and was paid the equivalent of £2 per hour.
This is perfectly legal because riders are treated by Deliveroo as being self-employed.
Deliveroo riders are taking heart from a recent court decision that Uber drivers are workers, not self-employed. Uber drivers should now be entitled to minimum national wage rates and the entire time drivers are logged on and available for work should be taken into account when calculating overall pay.
This is what Deliveroo riders want. They also want an end to arbitrary sackings.
The app often fires riders giving them little explanation for why, meaning that they could lose a whole income source overnight.
Surjit added, “If I look around the demonstration today, I would say two-thirds of the people here, maybe three-quarters, are people of colour.
“I’m convinced there’s discrimination and favouritism taking place at Deliveroo. It all needs sorting and the way we’re going to win is to make the IWGB bigger and keep striking.”
It’s great to see workers who are often written off as “unorganisable” taking action. The last year has also underlined how “precarious” workers are central to how the economy works.
Other unions should support the campaign and help the riders inflict a defeat on a giant company.