Hundreds of Deliveroo riders in the UK are striking on its first day of full trading over pay and working conditions
- Some 400 UK Deliveroo riders are striking on Wednesday over better pay, conditions and rights.
- The strike coincides with trading of Deliveroo's shares opening to retail investors.
- Deliveroo rider Greg Howard said the firm has given "empty broken promises" since he began striking in 2019.
Around 400 Deliveroo riders are attending socially-distanced strikes on Wednesday across five UK locations to protest pay, working conditions, and basic workers' rights.
The food-delivery firm offers restaurant food, groceries, and alcohol for delivery on demand via an app, and relies on a network of gig economy riders to ferry out supplies to its customers.
It relies on more than 100,000 riders across the 12 markets where it operates. These riders are classified as independent contractors, and are therefore not eligible for the minimum wage, sick pay, and other benefits.
UK riders are gathering in London and the major cities of York, Sheffield, Reading, and Wolverhampton to demand a higher wage, safety protections, and basic workers' rights, according to a statement by the trade union Independent Workers' Union of Great Britain (IWGB).
Alex Marshall, the president of the IWGB, told Insider the union is "trying to pull back the curtain on an incredibly opaque company that hides behind statements with no statistics to back it up."
The union has an ongoing court case involving Deliveroo that centers on how workers are classified, but if the union loses, "we'll appeal it and we'll continue to hold them to account through the courts," said Marshall.
The IWBG will be hoping that the fact Uber lost a UK Supreme Court ruling over drivers' rights in February will bolster its case.
Marshall said the union isn't "trying to topple Deliveroo because that would mean thousands of people out of work. We just want the company to treat its workforce properly."
He said the company can continue to function in exactly the same way it does, but that it needs to give its workers better pay, conditions and rights.
Marshall's comments come after the Bureau of Investigative Journalism published data in March indicating that some riders earn as little as £2 ($2.76) per hour for delivering food to customers, which is well below the minimum wage of £8.21 ($11.35) an hour. Deliveroo has questioned the outlet's findings.
Meanwhile, Deliveroo CEO Will Shu is thought to have made around $36 million in a share sale when the firm began trading on the LSE. He retails a 6.3% stake worth hundreds of millions.
Deliveroo argues that the bulk of its riders don't want the constraints of formal employment and value flexibility.
A spokesperson told Insider: "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.
"Only yesterday we ran a survey and 89% of riders said that they were happy with the company and flexibility was their priority," the spokesperson said, adding that rider satisfaction was at an "all-time high."
One striking Deliveroo rider, Greg Howard, has been working for the food delivery app since 2018. He's taking part in the Wednesday strikes virtually, meaning he's not logging into the Deliveroo app to take shifts.
Howard told Insider that the only feedback riders can give is via the app and it asks them on a scale of one to five how they feel about working for Deliveroo. He said there's no in-depth feedback and on the odd occasion the company sends surveys to riders over email.
Howard told Insider working conditions and pay have worsened over time. He first went on strike in February 2019 when he got a group of colleagues together in Nottingham, where he lives, who felt they weren't being treated fairly by Deliveroo.
"The fees decreased, the hours became longer. I was doing 15-hour days, seven days a week," he said.
Deliveroo agreed to meet with Howard and his group after the 2019 strikes to discuss the low pay and conditions, but he says little changed.
Howard says he contracted COVID-19 twice last year, saying this forced him to take time off work. As Deliveroo riders are not automatically entitled to sick pay, he said this left him struggling.
"I've got a family to support - I had a newborn baby then and my partner was on maternity leave," he said. "We had nothing coming in. I had to make a choice about whether I continue to work and put the public at risk or take the time off and not get paid."
Riders also have to dip into their pocket to pay for expenses, such as insurance and petrol.
Howard, who previously used a push-bike to do deliveries, said he invested in a scooter which boosts his ability to accept more orders.
But even with a faster vehicle, he says the earnings boost is offset by higher expenses.
When asked if he will continue to work for Deliveroo, Howard said "it's a tough one, but yes."
"I do enjoy the job, I just want it to be better. I want better rights, pay and safety when I'm working," he said.
-IWGB (@IWGBunion) April 7, 2021
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