On Valentine's Day, delivery drivers from popular food apps, including Deliveroo, Uber Eats, Just Eat, and Stuart.com, are planning to strike to demand improved pay and working conditions.
The strike, organized by a grassroots group of couriers, is expected to involve up to 3,000 drivers and riders between 17:00 and 22:00 GMT. The action aims to draw attention to the challenging pay and working conditions faced by delivery drivers across the UK.
The group leading the strike, Delivery Job UK, consists of many Brazilian couriers, and their primary focus is to advocate for fair compensation and improved working conditions. They argue that the current pay structure is inadequate, with riders enduring adverse weather conditions and covering significant distances for deliveries that offer "ridiculous values," ranging from £2.80 to £3.15.
Deliveroo, in response to the planned strike, emphasized that its riders "always earn at least the national living wage." However, the Delivery Job UK group asserts that the fees have been lowered, removing the incentive for riders. The group is specifically urging for an increase to a minimum of £5 for Deliveroo riders, while other companies employ different pricing structures.
According to a spokesman for Delivery Job UK, the gig economy's sophisticated algorithms have led to a 40% drop in wages for couriers since 2018. They highlight the challenging and isolating nature of the work, especially for migrant workers who feel compelled to accept these conditions. The group argues that striking is necessary to address exploitation and ensure the voices of delivery riders are heard.
Joe, a London-based courier since 2018, emphasized the shocking working conditions and aggressive pricing of fees. He highlighted the isolating nature of the work and the vulnerability of migrant workers who are often unable to challenge these conditions.
Callum Cant, a lecturer at Essex University and an expert on the gig economy, pointed out that changes to fees have resulted in a significant drop in wages for couriers. The current minimum fee of £2.80 may only allow couriers to make around £7 per hour in London, which is barely livable.
Although delivery drivers are not formally unionized, the GMB union has an agreement with Deliveroo, which they claim is the first of its kind in the food delivery sector. This agreement includes access to education courses and the negotiation of a pay floor for fees each April.
In response to the strike, Deliveroo stated that it provides riders with self-employed, flexible work and protections, including insurance coverage for accidents and injuries and income protection for illness. Uber Eats emphasized its commitment to offering a flexible earning opportunity for couriers through its app. Just Eat stated that it provides a competitive base rate to self-employed couriers and regularly reviews its pay structure. Stuart.com expressed its commitment to providing competitive earnings opportunities for courier partners.
As the food delivery industry faces increasing scrutiny over labor practices, this strike highlights the challenges that delivery drivers endure and their demands for fair compensation and improved working conditions. The outcome of this strike could potentially influence the broader discussion on gig economy labor practices and the rights of workers in this rapidly evolving sector.