Employment

'We're slaves to the platform': Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats riders are striking. Here's why

Deliveroo strike

Deliveroo riders are walking out to call on the firm to pay them fairly and improve working conditions. Image credit: Flickr/Pierre Arronax

If you’re planning on celebrating Valentine’s Day with a cheeky takeaway, think again.

Thousands of delivery drivers for Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Just Eat are striking over “ridiculously inadequate” pay and dangerous conditions – and they need your support.

Organised by a grassroots group of couriers, the planned five-hour walkout will take place between 5pm and 10pm today, 14 February. Up to 3,000 couriers will likely take part.

Shaf Hussain – a delivery rider and the chair of the couriers and logistics for Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IGWB) – said that food delivery apps don’t treat couriers “like humans.”

“We are slaves to the platform. You might work 12 hours, make £100 or so. But you need to pay for petrol and if you get punctures, pay for repairs. It just goes down,” he said.

“We want fair pay, we want fair treatment. We are sick and tired of being treated like human filth.”

Why are takeaway riders striking?

Deliveroo’s minimum order fees have fallen 40% in real terms over the last seven years, Delivery Job UK claim, though Deliveroo insists that this is inaccurate due to it changing its entire fee structure. Strikers claim that other apps have seen similar trends.

In practise, couriers will often drive or ride “huge distances” for deliveries paying between £2.80 to £3.15, explained Ulisses Caoffi, a courier and one of the strike organisers for umbrella group Delivery Job UK.

“You used to have to work eight or 10 hours to make less than minimum wage. Now, you have to work for 12 or 13 just to make ends meet,” he added.

“And you can only do three or so deliveries an hour. So you make not very much – and that is before you pay for petrol, for insurance and for other costs.”

In November, the Supreme Court ruled that Deliveroo riders are not “workers” and could not form a union. This decision followed a long-running battle by the IWGB for the right to unionise and bargain on their behalf.

Couriers have organised through grassroots pop up organisation Delivery Job UK. In an open letter to companies, the organisation called for “a fair compensation structure” that keeps pace with inflation. In practise, this amounts to a minimum of £5 deliver fee for the driver, per order. The minimum delivery fee currently stands at £2.85.

An Uber Eats spokesperson said: “We offer a flexible way for couriers to earn by using the app when and where they choose,” adding that they “regularly engage with couriers to look at how we can improve their experience.”

A Just Eat spokesperson made a similar claim, saying that “our data shows that couriers delivering for Just Eat earn, on average, significantly over both the London and national living wage for the time they are on an order.”

However, Caoffi said that the costs add up. “When you order food, the delivery fee you pay, maybe you think: that’s way too high. But it doesn’t go to us, companies keep most of it,” he said.

“There is no money for saving and it is destroying families. It creates mental health problems, it is very hard.”

An increase in the driver fee would make the job safer, he urged.

“There is violence, there are people getting robbed, there are hit and runs. We deserve to earn a fair wage,” he added. “Your burger might get delivered late because your rider got robbed, or got injured by a car. And you wouldn’t even know – you wouldn’t even know.”

Hussain, who has been working as a courier for eight years, echoed this fear.

“For me to earn minimum wage, I need to run every single red light. I need to not stop at all pretty much,” he warned. “It makes it so dangerous, hitting these deadlines for no money.”

A Deliveroo spokesperson said that rider retention rates were high. “We value dialogue with riders, which is why we have a voluntary partnership agreement with a trade union, which includes annual discussions on pay,” they said.

However, couriers have cast doubt over this partnership deal, with Hussain describing it as a “PR move.” The GMB have endorsed a deal which only pays drivers while they are delivering an order, not while they are waiting for one.

The IWGB have applauded the grassroots organisation that will hit delivery platforms on one of the busiest days of the year.

“Companies like Deliveroo and Uber Eats are making riders work longer and longer hours, take dangerous risks on the road, and endure punishing weather conditions in return for pennies that barely put food on the table,” said Alex Marshall, IWGB president and former courier of eight years.

“While the government and opposition have allowed and even encouraged this appalling exploitation to flourish, riders across the country are rising up to take back what’s theirs.”

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