Deliveroo riders strike as the fat cats try to make a killing

Deliveroo workers striking
Steve Topple

Deliveroo workers have gone on strike, just as the company joined the stock market. It was, of course, a game of two halves: workers fighting for rights; fat cat investors attempting to make a killing.

Everybody out… on your bikes

Deliveroo workers held protests in cities across the UK: from London, York and Sheffield via Reading and Wolverhampton. The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) is repping the Deliveroo workers. It noted a report which stated:

major health and safety concerns including but not limited to poor COVID-19 protections. It also highlights pay well below minimum wage, with many riders earning as little as £2 per hour and points to the rise in litigation and industrial action against the company.

So, on 7 April Deliveroo workers made some noise.

Striking for basic rights

There was a sizeable demo in London:

MPs showed their support:

And people were also urging the public not to order from Deliveroo on 7 April:

IWGB president Alex Marshall, who is a former bicycle courier, said:

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 is the least they deserve and what the public expects for our frontline workers.

But so far, Deliveroo itself has been scornful. It’s dismissed workers’ concerns. It called IWGB a “self-appointed union”. And it said that the majority of its workers were “happy”. Of course, it’s of little wonder the company was so barbed about its striking workers. Because its trading on the stock market hasn’t gone according to plan.

Money talks

IWGB said on its website the strike coincided:

with… [Deliveroo’s] Initial Public Offering (IPO) on the London Stock Exchange.

That is, the company was open to anyone buying its shares for the first time. Press Association (PA) reported that Deliveroo saw shares increase by more than 3% to 290p in early trading on Wednesday, before edging back slightly.

But as PA noted, shares are still around 28% below their launch price of 390p per share, which would have valued the business at £7.6bn. As of midday on Wednesday, the company had a market value of around £5.3bn.

Of course, it’s not worker’s pay and conditions that’s primarily spooking investors.

Worker’s rights? Who cares?

PA said that leading fund managers largely said that the primary cause of their caution was its shareholder structure, which will give significant power to its founder Will Shu in shareholder votes.

Surprise, surprise. Who cares about workers’ rights when there’s money to be made? But it doesn’t have to be this way. As IWGB said:

The company’s main competitor Just Eat already declared its intention to abandon the gig economy model of ‘bogus self-employment.’ Other courier corporations [like Uber] have been compelled to do so by courts in the UK and victories against Deliveroo are being won in courts abroad.

So, will Deliveroo back down? Or is the power of the shareholders too strong? Given its less-than inspiring stock market performance, Deliveroo may well make changes to how it operates in a bid to earn more money. But don’t immediately expect workers’ rights to be part of this.

Additional reporting and featured image via Press Association

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