Boris Johnson had ‘birthday bash’ during lockdown

Posted on: January 24th, 2022 by TTE No Comments
Boris Johnson holding a birthday cake

Boris Johnson holds a birthday cake at a work event (Picture: Andrew Parsons via No10 Downing St)

Boris Johnson had a birthday party during the first lockdown of the pandemic. The latest revelation of yet another Downing Street party should be the final nail in his coffin.  

On 19 June 2020, up to 30 people attended the event, sang Happy Birthday and enjoyed picnic food and cake for around 20-30 minutes. He won’t be able to spin this as a “work event”.

Meanwhile, ordinary people suffered throughout the pandemic. By 19 June 2020, the death toll for people who had died of the virus was over 40,000—not much to rejoice about.

But Number 10 staff and other special guests found it within themselves to “gather briefly” to “wish the prime minister a happy birthday”.

Downing Street claims Johnson was in attendance “for less than ten minutes”. This is ten minutes longer than people had with dying relatives.

At the time indoor gatherings of more than two people were banned except for work or education. And only six could gather outside—socially distanced.

The event took place in the Cabinet Room just after 2pm. It had been a surprise for Johnson after he returned from a trip to a school in Hertfordshire.

Johnson’s wife Carrie threw the party that included guests such as interior designer Lulu Lytle—not a member of Number 10 staff. Lytle designed Johnson’s renovated flat that was funded by a Tory donor.

And Martin Reynolds, Johnson’s private secretary who invited over 100 staff to the 20 May “bring your own booze” gathering, was also in attendance.

So too were Jack Doyle, Number 10’s current director of communications, and the head of operations Shelley Williams-Walker. They celebrated with members of Johnson’s private office, Number 10 special advisers and operations and events staff.

Just nine days prior, party animal Johnson asked the public “to continue to show restraint and respect the rules which are designed to keep us all safe”. And hours before the party kicked off, he had stood in silence for key workers who died in the pandemic.

Johnson’s family and friends also reportedly gathered in his official residence later that evening to continue the celebrations. But a spokesperson said, “This is totally untrue.” Instead, they say he hosted a small number of family members outside.

To add to the crisis in the Tory party, Theodore Agnew, a Cabinet Office minister, resigned from his post over the government’s handling of fraudulent Covid business loans.

Agnew announced his resignation in the House of Lords after it was revealed the Treasury last week wrote off £4.3 billion in Covid payments lost to fraud.

Which excuses Johnson will now use in an attempt to crawl out of his ever-deepening hole, or which of his staff he will fire to shift blame, is uncertain.

What is clear is that among the endless pandemic scandals and murderous policies, Johnson was laughing at us the entire time. And his contempt for ordinary people is more obvious than ever.

He cannot have his cake and eat it—Johnson must go now.

Senior civil servant Sue Gray is expected to release only the “findings” of her report into Downing Street parties this week. Relying on Gray’s report to force Johnson out, or on pressure from disgruntled Tories, won’t take working class people forward.

Johnson has to be forced out by struggle from below to send a clear message to him, and his repulsive government. And such struggles are needed to stop the assaults on working class living standards.

British state backs murder in Yemen

Posted on: January 24th, 2022 by Sophie No Comments
People clearing rubble

The aftermath of another Saudi bombing in Yemen in 2015 (Pic: VOA/wikimedia commons)

Airstrikes by a British‑backed military killed more than 70 ­people—including at least three children—in Yemen last week.

The coalition, led by British ally Saudi Arabia, killed three children playing football in an airstrike on a telecommunications centre in Yemen’s main port city Hodeidah. 
Another airstrike on a prison in the city of Sa’ada killed 70 people and wounded 138 people more.
The medical charity Doctors Without Borders reported that the airstrike left the local hospital “so ­overwhelmed that they can’t take any more patients.”
Meanwhile, the strike on the telecommunications buildings left most of Yemen without internet for several days.
It’s a blow to the ­hundreds of thousands of people already suffering after more than seven years of war brought on them by the West’s allies.
Majid Abdullah, a resident of Yemen’s capital Sanaa, said the internet outage left him unable to receive ­desperately needed money from relatives abroad.
“I don’t know what to do. We eat and drink from the money sent by expatriates abroad,” he said.
The airstrikes come after the rebel Houthi movement, launched a rocket attack on the United Arab Emirates, which is part of the Saudi coalition.
Saudi Arabia began the war on Yemen after a Houthi uprising in 2015.
The Houthis are backed by Iran—Saudi Arabia’s and the West’s regional rival—and control much of the west of Yemen including Hodeidah and the capital Sanaa.
The coalition’s blockade on Hodeidah has pushed ­millions of people in Yemen into starvation. The World Food Programme warned last September that five million people in Yemen were on the bring of famine and 16 ­million people were “marching towards starvation.”
Saudi-led airstrikes have also killed more than 100,000 people including at least 12,000 civilians.
It is armed in part by Britain, which has sold it more than £20 billion worth of military equipment since its war began in 2015.
The Tory government was forced to pause arms sales to Saudi Arabia briefly in 2019.
A high court ruling said that sales were unlawful because the government hadn’t assessed whether ­previous sales had been used in breaches of humanitarian law.
Yet just months later, top Tory Liz Truss—then trade minister—resumed sales once again.
That means Saudi Arabia and its allies can keep ­bombing Yemen—and keep killing children—with the support of Britain.

Boris Johnson’s problems go deeper than parties

Posted on: January 24th, 2022 by Sophie No Comments
Boris Johnson leans over his desk

Boris Johnson

Anyone thought the misgovernment of the pandemic couldn’t get worse has been proved wrong. 

Life and death decisions—there were 1,023 deaths due to Covid-19 in the first week of January—are now being dictated by whatever Boris Johnson thinks is necessary for his survival.
So schools have been told to stop requiring face masks, even though Omicron is tearing through them, to appease the Covid-sceptics on the Tory backbenches and in the cabinet.
It makes one’s head spin when one turns from this horror to the details of why Johnson is in such trouble. But this doesn’t mean that there’s nothing significant at stake. 
Brexit has left British capitalism at a strategic impasse. Johnson achieved it on the basis of a highly contradictory economic programme. On the one hand, he argued that breaking with the European Union (EU) would allow “Global Britain” to become a deregulated free market paradise.
On the other hand, he promised “levelling up” to the “Red Wall”—the Leave-voting ex-Labour seats in the north and the midlands that tilted Tory in December 2019.
These promises remain unfulfilled. Before she became foreign secretary, Liz Truss negotiated trade deals with countries outside Europe.
But their impact is trivial compared with the disruption that Brexit has brought to trade with Britain’s most important market in the EU.
Meanwhile, levelling up means reducing the economic gap between London and south east England and other regions, especially in the north. 
But this gap became a gulf thanks to Thatcherism. The large-scale closure of manufacturing industry in the 1980s and early 1990s devastated the north.
Meanwhile, while the “Big Bang” of 1986 launched the City of London’s ascent to the leading international financial centre.
This left the north heavily dependent on the public sector. New Labour was content to keep the state spending tap flowing, partly for obvious electoral reasons. 
But when the Tory-Liberal coalition came to office in 2010 it launched austerity, supposedly to pay for the rescue of the banks after the financial crash of 2007-8.
The ex-industrial regions were hit hard by this squeeze, which helps to explain why they voted Leave in 2016.
Johnson promised an end to austerity when he became prime minister. But the logic of “Global Britain” is more deregulation and privatisation. In a certain sense the pandemic allowed him to wriggle round this dilemma. 
That’s because it demanded a huge increase in public spending, financed by the Bank of England creating money and lending it to the government.
But the Thatcherite wing of the cabinet, headed by chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak, don’t like this. They blame the rise in inflation—5.4 percent in December, the highest level since 1992—on the extra spending.  
Sunak has sought to limit the rise in government debt by raising taxes to their largest share of national income since the late 1940s.
Brexit marked a huge triumph for the Thatcherite wing of the Conservative party. They had long demanded breaking with the EU—and Johnson purged many pro-European Tories.
The problem is they achieved this thanks to a politician who was willing to borrow from the far right, campaigning against the establishment, and distancing himself from neoliberalism.
Many Tory MPs were very unhappy with Johnson’s readiness to tax and spend. 
The Downing Street scandals must make them wonder whether he has served his purpose.  
In a Telegraph article that was supposed to be a defence of Johnson, the Brexiteer ex-MEP Daniel Hannan hinted at this.
He argued that “reduced living standards will be the central fact of our politics for the rest of this Parliament”, which the Tories can only overcome through “meaningful deregulation. 
“Many Conservative MPs ask each other whether these things can happen as their party is currently led and configured.”
If a lot of Tories are deluding themselves that another dose of Thatcherism could revive the economy and keep hold of the Red Wall seats, then dumping Johnson definitely won’t end their crisis.

US forces on stand by as West and Russia raise stakes over Ukraine

Posted on: January 24th, 2022 by Sophie No Comments
A picture of Putin who is amassing troops on the Ukraine border

Putin is amassing troops on Ukraine’s border

Sabre-rattling between US and Russian imperialism has brought Ukraine to the brink of war. 

US secretary of state Anthony Blinken promised a “swift, severe and united response from the United States and Europe” if Russia invaded Ukraine.

President Joe Biden could send between 2,000 to 5,000 troops to countries bordering Russia and Ukraine.

This could increase to 50,000, backed up by aircraft and warships, under a senior generals’ plan presented to the president last weekend. The US and British governments both continued to ship arms to Ukraine during the last week.  

And Tory minister Dominic Raab claimed that British spooks had unmasked a Russian plot to stage a coup and install an obscure former MP as the Ukrainian prime minister.

Russian president Vladimir Putin has placed more than 100,000 troops along the Ukrainian border since November of last year. Armoured divisions are now within striking distance of the capital Kiev, with a population of almost three million people.

Putin has been building up troops since November last year, in a bid to force the US to the negotiating table. He wants assurances that the US-led Nato alliance won’t expand eastwards. 

He can also see an opportunity to exploit divisions within the webs of Western imperialism.

The US has talked up the threat of an invasion in a bid to put Russia on the back foot.

But European capitalist states—such as Germany—are far more reliant on Russian energy and have been less bellicose.

The US and Russia don’t want to get bogged down in a long war—but that doesn’t mean it won’t break out. The logic of imperialism—a system driven by competition between capitalist states—can push states into direct confrontation.

In Britain socialists should build opposition to the US and British states beating the drums of war—and fight the system of imperialist rivalry that produces it.

Letters—Tories’ failed school reading scheme is not a surprise

Posted on: January 24th, 2022 by Isabel No Comments
A primary school classroom

The Tories are failing young children with their corporate learning schemes

The UCL university study published this week—which lambasts the government directed method of teaching young children to read—comes as no surprise to early years practitioners like myself.

The narrow focus on synthetic phonics—first teaching letter sounds—is failing children and sucking the joy out of teaching them.

Schools are increasingly encouraged to invest in schemes that dictate exactly how we should teach, and children should learn.

The online training for my school’s new scheme included questions like, “‘There should be no mix and match of phonics programme resources’—true or false?” The answer was true. Woe betide any teacher that strayed from the brand and thought they could mix and match resources. 

I suppose all those other phonic pictures and books need to be shredded.

I shared the study to my nursery and reception teacher—they both replied they couldn’t agree more with its findings.

We have an awful new phonics scheme at the moment called Little Wandle, which is totally full of corporate rubbish.

The schemes are prescriptive, even down to the facial expressions you should use with the children. 

Everyone has to learn the same mantras and all the lesson plans are written by the company. Children are even tested on nonsense words that don’t make sense. Educators shouldn’t behave like robots to produce children who are not encouraged to think about the world around them. 

The reality is they have to consume small chunks of contextless fodder.

Like other rules the Tories set, I guarantee they don’t apply to their own children. 

No doubt in public schools, teachers will use a variety of strategies and a breadth of texts because that is what actually works.

As teaching assistants our time is taken up in the early years of education with interventions to get children through the phonics test.

Julie Forgan


The new Labour MP is rotten 

In the 2019 election campaign, with a couple of hundred other socialists, I heard Lucy Burke speak—the Labour Party candidate for Bury South constituency.

In 2020 most of those people came out again to take the knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Keir Starmer has delivered a kick in the teeth to all those people by allowing the Tory Christian Wakeford to defect and become the Labour MP for Bury South.

Wakeford voted for the £20 a week cut to Universal Credit, the Nationality and Borders Bill and the police and crime bill.

The fact that Wakeford feels comfortable in Labour shows the depth of the crisis in the Tory Party. But it also shows just how far to the right Labour has travelled since 2019.

Tory MPs are now welcome, while thousands of socialists are expelled.

But in Greater Manchester, as well as elsewhere, there is an alternative. Last Saturday, there was a fantastic Kill the Bill demonstration in the city.

The bus driver Tracey Scholes was reinstated after a massive campaign and the Chep workers have been on all-out strike since before Christmas.

Socialist politics and organisation based on these struggles outside of parliament are the way forward.

Adam Rose

Bury South

South Yorkshire bus strike had complications  

The article about the Stagecoach strikes in South Yorkshire emphasised the determination and strength of the pickets, which should encourage other workers to fight.

It stated that the final settlement was higher than most had expected, but rightly points out it does not keep up with the true rate of inflation.

However, the sentence saying the action was suspended by workers in Barnsley and Rotherham leaving those in Sheffield to fight alone was not accurate. 

These two areas have previously had separate wage negotiations. Their weekly pay dates are separate, which is why the strikes started on different days.

There are also complications about differing overtime rates and sick pay. 

A meeting of 200 Sheffield drivers voted to accept the deal with a lower hourly rate but enhanced conditions compared to Barnsley and Rotherham.

George Arthur, Barnsley

Phil Turner, Sheffield 

Influencer is ignorant on poverty  

Molly-Mae Hague, a British influencer and creative director of fast fashion brand Pretty Little Thing, has been under scrutiny for comments on poverty.

Her statements—such as “we all have the same 24 hours in the day” and other “motivational comments”—have caused a debate.

It centres not only on her success, but the falsity of the “feminist girl boss” figure that has been pushed by the system in recent years.

Hague’s PR crisis didn’t stop there. A later expose saw her advertising the position of a social media manager with a salary of £20,000—ridiculously low for that kind of job. 

She thinks that regardless of where you come from, becoming CEO of a multimillion‑pound company by the age of 22 is achievable for those that simply work hard enough.

This is a reductive and privileged assertion.

It leaves a very bitter taste coming from a woman that represents the white, upper class, and hyper-feminine image that plagues Instagram.

Even more so, considering that her vast wealth comes at the cost of the thousands of exploited sweatshop workers that create Pretty Little Thing’s unsustainable garments. 

Lola Bhlaire


Change is from struggle

The left—in the Labour party or outside—would do well to read Nick Clark’s article on Jeremy Corbyn’s potential new party (Socialist Worker, 12 January).

We won’t change society by working within a corrupt parliamentary system designed to prevent change in favour of ordinary people. 

Real change comes from the outside.

Gary Smyth

via Twitter

Boot out Johnson on our terms

Although I’ll be glad to see the back of Boris Johnson, I feel irritated by media manipulation. 

It suits them for whatever reason to get rid of him now—so they think let’s go for him.

But there have been bigger scandals in my opinion, such as releasing Covid patients into care homes.


via Twitter

Tories are hypocrites

I’m not obeying “rules” that the rule makers break. It was clear back in March 2020 they only made the rules for the minions.

They profit grossly from extortionate fines, which should be paid back in full with compensation and full pardon of criminal wrongdoing.

Vile government cretins on their high horse. 

Time to fight back people.

Alison Jarrold


No place for socialists 

Two years into his term as leader of the Labour Party, Keir Starmer’s only “achievement” is to make his party a hostile environment for socialists

But it’s a welcoming place for vile, racist, reactionaries jumping ship from the Tory party in a desperate attempt to save their seats.  

Sasha Simic


Tory crisis grows as former minister Nusrat Ghani says she was ‘sacked for being Muslim’

Posted on: January 23rd, 2022 by TTE No Comments
An official parliamentary photograph of Tory MP Nusrat Ghani, she wears a blue shawl

Tory MP Nusrat Ghani—sacked as a minister ‘because I was Muslim’

The Tory crisis is not going away. As Boris Johnson hangs onto his job, he’s threatened to pass as much blame as possible on to his subordinates.

That is always a risk as it encourages more people to come forward with bits of the truth.

This weekend’s revelations included a former Tory minister accusing party whips of Islamophobia after she was sacked and warned not to discuss the matter in public. 

Nusrat Ghani was transport minister from January 2018 until February 2020. She alleged that a Tory whip said her “Muslimness was raised as an issue” by Downing Street for her firing. 

Ghani added that the whip told her that her “Muslim woman minister status was making colleagues feel uncomfortable”.

Ghani told the Sunday Times newspaper she felt “humiliated and powerless” after the episode. And that she was warned not to discuss the issue or her “career and reputation would be destroyed”. 

If that’s how the Tories behave towards their own, it’s no surprise that they ram through racist laws and scapegoat Muslims .

It’s disgusting, but flows directly from the leadership. Johnson has openly attacked Muslims in the vilest terms, saying Muslim women who wear the burqa look like “letter boxes” and “bank robbers”.

It’s total hypocrisy that Downing Street says Johnson met Ghani in July 2020 after he was made aware of “these extremely serious claims”. It’s outrageous that his aides say, “The Conservative party does not tolerate prejudice or discrimination of any kind.”

And almost immediately afterwards, Tory MP Michael Fabricant said of Ghani, “She’s hardly someone who’s obviously a Muslim.” He added that her accusation of Islamophobia is a “lame excuse” for her sacking.

In another sign of intimidation, Downing Street officials claim they have held back information from civil servant Sue Gray’s investigation into the scandal of parties held during lockdown.

Three sources told The Independent newspaper they have not revealed messages and pictures on their phones. They said a senior member of staff told them to remove anything that could fuel speculation in the wake of the initial revelations.

Messages in a WhatsApp group were said to contain photographs of people drinking and dancing, as well as references to how hungover people were the next day.

“Everyone’s terrified. It’s a witch hunt,” another source told The Independent. “There’s been a culture of fear in the office every day since the first party story broke.”

Another source added, “I’ve held back from sharing evidence, it’s too risky. And I’d have to explain why I’d deleted some stuff, which would mean saying I’d felt intimidated.”

There are also more signs of Tory panic. The Mail on Sunday newspaper claims chancellor Rishi Sunak now refers to the national insurance increase set for April as “the prime minister’s tax”. 

He knows there is bitter anger already over rising prices and falling living standards, and that it will grow. So he’s trying to wriggle out from the blame—and lay the basis to stand for leader if Johnson goes.

Gray’s report is expected to be handed to Johnson in the next few days. Johnson will decide when, and how much, is released. There’s no guarantee MPs will even demand its full publication.

There’s no guarantee Gray will point the finger at Johnson or that he will go even if she does.

That’s why the left has to stop spectating and fight to raise the level of struggle now to drive out Johnson. And this would be a good basis for further battles in the spring. This won’t come from Labour.

It’s a mistake to see this crisis as about an individual prime minister. It’s ultimately about the way millions of people know they’ve been lied to by the Tories, who’ve presided over a vast shift of wealth towards the super-rich. 

Everyone should build solidarity for the strikes and campaigns going on—and fight to spread and extend them.

The whips ‘killed six people’

The scandals at Westminster have shone a light on the role of the whips. These are MPs who act as enforcers for the party leaders.

For them, any breath of scandal or inappropriate conduct is useful in order to pressure MPs to toe the party line.

In 1993 Tory prime minister John Major was desperate to force through support for the European Union’s Maastricht treaty. In a series of knife-edge votes several Tories threatened to rebel.

One Tory said about the whips, “They kept phoning my wife and saying, ‘You should tell him to vote with the government.’ 

“With some it was affairs, or things like visits to gay nightclubs. It didn’t matter if it wasn’t true, or was gossip, they still tried it on.”

During the Tony Blair governments, the whips used intense pressure to push MPs to vote for the war in Iraq, tuition fees and other measures.

The whips can certainly be ruthless. From 1977-9 the Labour government did not have a majority in the Commons. Every vote mattered.

Joe Ashton, then one of the Labour whips, said years later, “The whips’ office killed six people—I say that with deep sympathy. Some of them had to have their operations at 10 o’clock in the morning and come in here to vote at 10 o’clock at night. Others had to postpone their operations until the recess.”

‘If we can fight, so can you’—say Chep UK workers on all-out strike

Posted on: January 23rd, 2022 by TTE No Comments
Trade unionists support the Chep UK picket line. There's a banner from Manchester trades council and a green flag from the RMT

Trade unionists stand with Chep UK workers on the picket line (Picture: Manchester SWP)

Solidarity has boosted Chep UK pallet workers in Trafford, Greater Manchester, who are on all-out strike for higher pay.

Delegates from nearby Wigan trades union council (TUC) visited the Unite union members’ picket lines last week. 

The workers are demanding a 5 percent pay increase from bosses—who announced £150 million worth of profits during the pandemic.

One worker said, “We were told during the past year that we were on the front line of the pandemic. That the business would suffer if we didn’t go all out to ensure we supplied the equipment needed to clients. 

“That we would be rewarded for our efforts. They then offer 2 percent at the same time as announcing £150 million profits.” 

Another striker added, “All they do now is offer to negotiate—and then ask what we want when they know all too well what we want. 

“That’s not negotiation, that’s stringing us along and taking the piss.” 

The Chep UK strike shows how working class people can realise their power through taking collective action. “From my point of view this strike and the picket line has been an eye-opener,” said another picket. 

“Before I used to go to work, come home, watch telly, have a kip, maybe have a beer, get to sleep and go to work. 

“I didn’t really know anyone apart from the few I worked with. Now I’m mates with the workforce, got a wider view of things, meeting trade unionists from other areas, reading different newspapers. It’s a different world.” 

Another picket agreed, saying, “Life used to be a bit of a treadmill. Work, sleep, even hiding behind others who used to stick up for us. It’s different for me now. I won’t hide behind anyone, when I speak at meetings I feel confident. I can’t believe the reception we get when talking to other trade unionists, when hundreds are clapping you. 

“I know how important this picket is. We’re telling passers by if we can fight, so can you. 

“They’ll go into their own workplaces and say, ‘Have you seen those Chep workers, why can’t we do that?”

Wigan TUC has invited strikers to their next meeting—and will then organise to get them into local union meetings. 

Mary Callaghan, Unite national executive committee member and Wigan TUC president, told strikers they had the union’s full support. 

As the cost of living crisis gets worse, Chep UK workers are saying, “Enough is enough.” Every trade unionist and campaigner should get behind the Chep UK fight, invite strikers to online and physical union meetings and raise money. 

‘We can’t stand for this’—delivery workers speak out

Posted on: January 23rd, 2022 by Isabel No Comments
IWGB union members protesting last Thursday

IWGB union members protesting outside Hackney Town Hall in north east London last Thursday (Credit: Guy Smallman)

Long days, low pay and harsh conditions await delivery workers employed by apps such as Deliveroo, Just Eat, Uber Eats and Stuart. 

But workers are fighting back for a better deal. 

An impressive strike of Just Eat delivery workers, recently ­outsourced to subcontractor Stuart, has spread from Sheffield to Chesterfield, Sunderland, Huddersfield and Blackpool. 

Workers, who are members of the IWGB union, sprung to action after Stuart cut workers’ wages from £4.50 to £3.40 per trip for short journeys. 

Sayed is one of the drivers who took part in strikes in Chesterfield.

He told Socialist Worker that cuts to pay will have a devastating impact on workers. 

“The new pay structure is a ­massive blow for us. The price of fuel and insurance is going up, and our general expenditure is increasing,” Sayed explained.

“It’s really hard to make money at the moment. Sometimes it doesn’t even feel worth it.”  

Ahmed is also a delivery driver in Chesterfield. He said that Stuart told workers the pay deduction was a “fairer deal for everyone”. But Ahmed is already seeing a drastic reduction in his pay. 

“Before, if you did say 22 ­deliveries a day, you’d usually get around £100 and a small bonus of maybe £10 or £20,” he explained. “Nowadays, for the same amount of orders we don’t reach £100.”

Ahmed added that additional costs that aren’t covered by Just Eat Stuart also decreases workers’ wages. 

“Because of long waiting times, you can only do about two jobs an hour. If you’re lucky, that’s £7 an hour,” he said.

“Then you have to factor in other costs like petrol and insurance and you’re looking at making much less. 

“And you aren’t paid for the time it takes to drive to where you need to pick up the order. Only the time it takes to drop it off with the customer. 

“Because of the low pay you have to work longer hours. I know other drivers who get up at 7 am and finish at 11 pm. 

“You can’t have a life with this job.” 

Both Ahmed and Sayed agreed that despite Just Eat, Stuart and other delivery apps tell workers they are “self-employed”, but that this isn’t the case. 

“The fact is the delivery ­companies are in complete charge of us,” Ahmed argued. 

“They can do whatever they like—they can dock our pay and dismiss us at any time. 

“You can’t get in touch with the company if you have problems. There is a support chat but it’s an ­automated bot, and you can’t speak to a real person who will understand.”

The pay cuts were a final straw for many food delivery workers already angry and keen to keep on fighting. 

“In Chesterfield, we made the case to other drivers that if we struck and took action together then we would all benefit,” said Sayed. 

For the time being the strikes in Chesterfield have stopped, but Ahmed said workers need to keep up the pressure and keep fighting. 

“Delivery drivers are the ones who make Just Eat and Stuart money. We can’t stand for this anymore, and we just can’t take it.”

Battling McDonald’s for a free and safe place to park 

In Dalston, east London, delivery riders aren’t asking for much—just a safe space to park while they collect orders from the local McDonald’s

Delivery driver Son told Socialist Worker that he and other workers are forced to park in Bentley Road car park, too far from the restaurant. 

“You have to pay to park at the Bentley car park,” he said. “It’s £2 every time you need to park there, so every trip we take we have to pay an extra £2.”

Riders are fighting to get permission to park in the car park behind the McDonald’s, which is usually empty. 

“If you park in the wrong place, you can be fined over £60,” said Son. “That’s more than some of us earn in a day.” 

Ed, who organises couriers for the IWGB union, told Socialist Worker that workers are demanding a place to wait for orders that has “shelter, toilets and is safe.” 

“This is just another assault on couriers, who are mainly black, Asian and migrant workers. Already they get no sick or holiday pay, and no support from the food delivery apps,” Ed added.

Deliveroo drivers on motorbikes

Deliveroo drivers riding to Hackney Town Hall (Credit: Guy Smallman)

Hackney’s Labour council has so far refused to address the workers grievances.

It has said that couriers must take the issue up with the delivery apps they work for. 

To show the council that workers will keep fighting for a safe space to park, drivers on bikes and motorcycles took to protest.

They rode from Ashwin Street to Hackney Town Hall last Thursday and made sure they were noticed. 

Workers blared their horns and circled the town hall. 

When they arrived at the town hall they chanted, “Stop exploiting us”, “We want dignity” and “Hackney council—shame on you”. 

On the steps of the building, workers demanded that the council stop handing out fines to workers who are already so poorly paid

Son said that taking part in actions, like the protest last Thursday, make delivery workers feel less isolated. 

“When we rode into the square, it felt really good. It was good to see the support from local people as well. 

“We need to keep putting the pressure on to open up the space behind McDonald’s for riders.” 

How do workers fight back?

The demand for food delivery services only increased during the pandemic. But this didn’t amount to a surge in profits.

Last year food delivery app Just Eat reported that they had received 1.1 billion orders. 

In the first six months of 2021, Deliveroo reported that orders had doubled from 74.5 million to 148.8 million. 

These companies make millions, if not billions, in revenue every year yet struggle to make profit. 

So, bosses look to squeeze workers as much as possible. 

Last year Deliveroo made a loss of £104.8 million, and at the beginning of the pandemic its sales slumped. 

Bosses tried to save the company by sacking 15 percent of its office staff—some 367 people. 

But how can workers fight and win against such unscrupulous companies? 

Workers striking in Sheffield, Chesterfield and elsewhere showed that withdrawing their labour, even from one restaurant, can stop deliveries altogether.  

Spreading and escalating strikes across the country would put immense pressure on the bosses to bow to workers’ demands. 

But to make action even more successful and long-lasting, there must be stronger links between workers and their chosen union. 

The more drivers that can be recruited to unions, the more collective power the workers will have.