OVER 100 Deliveroo food delivery company couriers and supporters met in Camden, northwest London on Tuesday evening to discuss their campaign against slave labour pay and conditions.
The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) general secretary Jason Moyer-Lee outlined the situation facing Deliveroo couriers as follows: ‘Currently Deliveroo riders are classed as “independent contractors” which means they have no employment rights.
‘This is the same category that the courier companies use and that Uber has been using. We want to get them recognised in law as being “workers”, just like the Uber case. This means they would obtain paid holiday, minimum wage, trade union rights, and more. Collective bargaining laws in the UK apply to both “workers” and “employees”. They do not apply to “independent contractors”.
‘We want to force Deliveroo into a collective bargaining agreement with the union so that we can negotiate pay and terms and conditions for our members. In order to do this we have written to Deliveroo and asked them for a collective bargaining agreement for a “bargaining unit”.
‘A bargaining unit usually means a workplace, and in the case of Deliveroo we are saying it is the zone of Camden. Deliveroo has 10 working days to agree, reject, ignore, or agree to negotiate. They will definitely not accept the request because if they did they would be recognising that they are not dealing with a bunch of bikers who run their own businesses but rather with workers hired by them to work for Deliveroo.
‘So if Deliveroo ignores or rejects our request then we can apply to the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) for the CAC to declare that the union should be recognised for collective bargaining. To do this the CAC will need to establish that the zone of Camden is an appropriate bargaining unit, that the Deliveroo guys are “workers”, and that our union has the support of at least 50% of the workers in Camden.
‘So if we win the case it means that the CAC will have declared that Deliveroo guys are “workers” and not “independent contractors”. In a similar way that two Uber guys acted as a lead/test case for the other 40,000 Uber drivers in the country, it is inconceivable that Deliveroo guys in Camden could be workers but those in Angel be independent contractors.
‘If we win it would also be the first collective bargaining agreement in the “gig economy” (as far as I’m aware). Even though the collective bargaining would only apply to workers in Camden, it would be a political and legal precedent that other workers and unions could build on.
‘This case strikes at the very basis upon which the so-called “gig economy” rests: the companies say these workers are all independent business people who don’t need employment rights and don’t need to unionise, we say they are workers hired by big companies and need to be treated as such.’
News Line spoke to some of the couriers as they went into the meeting. Darren said: ‘It’s never been worse. This is the worst experience in the two years I have been working for Deliveroo. How are people expected to earn a living and have a decent life on £3.75 an hour? It’s ridiculous. Deliveroo must put their hands up and say “we’ll pay you the London Living Wage” which is £9.40 per hour.
‘We want Deliveroo to recognise our union so we can negotiate a collective bargaining agreement. IWGB is holding this meeting and I’m waiting to see where we will be going. It’s time to get rid of this Tory government. They are cutting everything. We need a government that works for us so we have a decent life, that’s what people want. I’d be for a general strike to bring in a government for the workers.’
Nathan Gayle said: ‘I’m upset about the fact that the most marginalised people in society are being exploited. This is why the companies that say they don’t really employ us are able to become richer. I’d like better pay, paid holidays and to be able to afford to have a place in London. We need a union to fight together and end poverty pay – have a real living wage.’
Jamar added: ‘I like the security of pay per hour. Pay per drop is uncertain, I don’t like it. Everyone living in London would like a London Living Wage.’ Anna Goncalves from northwest London said: ‘Right now Deliveroo riders have a self-employment status. That’s quite problematic. Deliveroo doesn’t have any legitimate employment obligations toward their workers. I want to be able to get full employment recognition so we have full rights to collective bargaining and a living wage.’
The meeting opened with some testimonials from the floor. Morgan said: ‘I work 50 hours a week. You have to have food delivery insurance but if your bike gets stolen you’re not covered. We have no employment rights at all. As independent contractors you have to work two days at weekends. I’m classed as an entrepreneur! We have to fight as everyone before us has to make sure everyone has rights.’
Megan said: ‘There’s a small group of us that works on bikes. We have to carry boxes four times the size of a delivery box. I work 20 hours a week. While outside, before I have a pick up every day, the time for that is not paid. I have no help if I come off my bike. It really doesn”t feel fair to have all the risks and costs put onto us. I’m not classed as an employee. We feel insecure about what they can do.’
Billy declared: ‘I’m a supporter of the IWGB. I’m a Deliveroo driver in Camden. I receive £3.75 a delivery. I don’t get paid by the hour, only per delivery. I don’t get paid waiting for work, only when I do a delivery. This is happening all the time. A colleague of mine had an accident on his second day. They logged him off for two hours as a sort of punishment. I had to buy an attachment for my bike so I was out of pocket before I ever started work. We need a union. First of all we need union recognition. Then we will have a right as workers to have a living wage and holiday pay etc.’
Maggie, IWGB Islington couriers and riders branch told the meeting: ‘IWGB formed a few years ago. We joined it 18 months ago. The industry for the past few years suffered from a race to the bottom. We were suffering from a pay freeze and even pay cuts. A few of us decided let’s join the IWGB. We started with a campaign against one of the big courier companies Citysprint.
‘We got a few concessions after six months then we went on to mass protests. There were five big courier companies. Deliveroo decided not to sign up. We then had a week-long strike. There were hundreds of bikes outside Torrington Place. We are going to take Deliveroo to court over pay and conditions. We should get the guys the London Living Wage – everything they want.’
James Farrar with fellow Uber driver Yassen Aslam won an employment tribunal to be recognised as workers. James told the meeting: ‘GMB did represent us. We also formed a body ourselves, Uber Drivers Union. We’ve grown to the biggest driver representative body in the UK. The story is the same everywhere – private hire and minicab drivers are treated like shit.
‘Uber started out saying they were against exploitation. They started off good but then conditions went down. They took over jobs and companies. The algorithm became like a controller. Drivers are earning less and less. Uber’s business model is oversupply. There’s not work for all the drivers available. The case came about because conditions started to deteriorate.
‘I was assaulted on the job. The police took a long time to come, I wondered why. It’s because we take all the risk, Uber have none. We were required to agree to a 27-page Netherlands contract. Uber wouldn’t discuss the contract. Transport for London didn’t want to know. A lot of responsibilities for the license are put on us. We had to agree that Uber is not a transportation company! We had to agree that they are our customer – “agree to it now otherwise you’ve no job”.
‘That was a bridge too far and the judge didn’t agree with Uber. We destroyed them in the court. If you look at the judgement, the judge was deciding what is fiction and what things really are. Uber is determined to appeal. We have to work together, we have to get a political change. Uber threw a Christmas party and Cameron and Osborne were present. We must pursue legal argument but we must change public opinion, we must change the politics.’
Jason Moyer-Lee told the meeting: ‘The strategy is both the legal challenge and campaigning. To get collective bargaining you have to be classed as a worker. We can apply to the Central Arbitration Committee. We have named Camden as a bargaining unit and we need 10% of Deliveroo workers in Camden to force the tribunal to make a decision so we get employment rights. If we win this we’ll get quite a big change.’