Hundreds of Deliveroo riders are striking across the U.K. as the food delivery company’s float on the London Stock Exchange opens up to retail investors — largely customers that were offered shares last month.
Protests in London, Reading, York, Sheffield, and Wolverhampton are coalescing around two things: Deliveroo’s classification of its riders as contractors, and its current initial public offering (IPO) which aimed to value the company at close to £8 billion. The two are interlinked because Deliveroo’s achievement of both that valuation and the eventual profitability investors will demand currently rests, if not relies on the suppression of labour costs that classing riders as contractors and not workers provides. Under the current classifications, riders cannot guarantee a minimum wage, or receive sick pay or pension contributions, and some investors balked at this — not out of moral concern, but out of the impact of changes to workers’ rights on future profitability.
The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) is coordinating the strikes, and says that “Deliveroo presents a false choice between flexibility and basic rights but the Uber ruling showed that here as well as abroad, workers can have both.” That Uber ruling is the Supreme Court’s decision that the rideshare juggernaut must class its drivers as workers, entitling them to the protections that Deliveroo riders are currently denied. IWGB president Alex Marshall added:
They said it couldn’t be done but by getting organised and speaking out, riders have triggered a domino effect which already slashed £3 billion from Deliveroo’s valuation and that should give pause to any corporation that thinks precarious workers can be endlessly exploited without consequence. It’s time for Deliveroo to do the right thing, recognise its riders as workers and treat them like human beings.
In London, protestors congregated outside the company’s headquarters, before riding through to the London Stock Exchange:
The @Deliveroo strike has arrived at the company’s headquarters where City of London police are stationed on the doors. “Come out and meet the people you disrespect” demands one rider on the megaphone #DeliverooStrike #Rights4Riders pic.twitter.com/xTnnwrZd3R— Jack Shenker (@hackneylad) April 7, 2021
Striking @Deliveroo riders reach the London Stock Exchange where the company’s shares begin full public trading today— Jack Shenker (@hackneylad) April 7, 2021
“Investors have to understand that as things stand they are investing in exploitation and poverty pay” says @IWGBunion president @alexjkmarshall #DeliverooStrike pic.twitter.com/dEcU10xoeD
Deliveroo, which has previously described the IWGB as a “fringe organisation,” is sticking to the script, maintaining that the “flexibility” offered by its employment contracts is what its riders seek. It told Vice that “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.” In late March, a study from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) found that riders earn as little as £2 per hour, after analysing invoices from over 300 of the company’s 50,000, a workforce which it has doubled during the Covid-19 pandemic.