Hundreds of Deliveroo riders will go on strike on Monday 7 April, in protest against the food delivery behemoth’s approach to workers’ rights. It’s the same day that the company founded by Will Shu goes public on the London Stock Exchange, where it is expected to achieve a valuation of close to £8 billion.
The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) is putting pressure on more investors to take the company’s employment model into account when looking at is a financial prospect. Multiple funds, including Aviva, BMO Global, CCLA, and Aberdeen Standard, have said they will not invest in the company over its classification of riders as self-employed, though this is as much about investment return as it might be moral compasses.
Alex Marshall, president of the IWGB, said:
Investing in Deliveroo means associating yourself with the exploitative and unstable business model that it champions and has set aside millions to defend. It means signing up to support a company condemned across parliament during the pandemic for endangering public health and for clapping and then scrapping key workers without due process. With riders now going on strike and determined to push for change, it means standing on the wrong side of history with nothing but bad press, litigation and industrial action to look forward to.
Deliveroo, which has previously referred to the IWGB as a “fringe organisation,” has remained bullish about the prospects of its Initial Public Offering (IPO.) It is confident that it will achieve the valuation north of £8 billion that it seeks, despite admitting to prospective investors that any future changes to its labour model — that is, actually having to pay riders a minimum wage, holiday, and sick pay — could “affect [its] ability to continue operating” in certain markets. It told the Independent that “the number of IWGB members that are Deliveroo riders is a tiny minority.”
The strike, IPO, and surrounding discourse all take place in the context of a Supreme Court ruling that forced Uber to classify its drivers as workers, as opposed to contractors. While. that ruling doesn’t affect Uber Eats and is not expected to directly impact food delivery markets, its precedent — and Just Eat’s move to classify its riders as employees — have become pressure points for Deliveroo’s attempt to remain attractive to investors which, while impressed by its growth, are being asked to put money into a company which made a £224 million loss in the same year it first achieved profitability; profitability only made possible by an unprecedented global pandemic. Ultimately it looks set to meet the valuation it wants — but ever-increased pressure on its approach to workers’ rights is likely to come with it.