UK food delivery companies fail to protect their workers as they enter the stock market

UK food delivery companies fail to protect their workers as they enter the stock market

Online food delivery companies across the globe, such as Uber Eats, Deliveroo and Just Eat continue to mistreat their couriers with low wages, unstable working conditions and zero hours contracts. These companies contribute to the making of the gig economy, where workers are under the title of self-employment and get paid for the number of journeys they make.

On April 7th 2021, Deliveroo witnessed protests by their couriers due to the treatment they have received. This coincided with the company's first day of open trading on the London stock market. Shares fell to 287p by the end of the day, which was well below the 390p offer price one week ago. The company offered customers to buy their stocks, which led to an estimated 70,000 investors beginning to trade. These investors could buy up to £1,000 in number of shares with trading only being opened to large organisations on Wednesday.

It's outrageous that the company can go on to the stock exchange at this difficult time for so many people and bring in that money for themselves.

- A Deliveroo rider

Unfortunately for the couriers with hopes of being heard for better pay, the opening trading in the London stock market was a devastating reality to many. With Deliveroo’s initial public offering (IPO), they aimed at a value of £8.8 billion, which they later had to change to £7.6 billion. The only way to achieve such numbers rests on continuing to reduce labour costs, and thus continuing to class couriers as mere contractors and not employees.

With over 200 Deliveroo workers having joined demonstrations in London, couriers hope that they can get their urgent message across to the company’s headquarters. In addition to this, there have been smaller-scale protests scattered across the United Kingdom, in cities such as Sheffield, York, Wolverhampton and Reading. The workers have protested in a cry for increased pay. Protestors further highlighted that investors need to understand that they are investing in the exploitation and poverty of Deliveroo couriers.

One Deliveroo rider, Greg Howard, expressed: “I'm going on strike for my basic rights and those of all the other couriers struggling to get by and support families on Deliveroo poverty pay”.

Another rider, aged 25, expressed his anger stating: “It's outrageous that the company can go on to the stock exchange at this difficult time for so many people and bring in that money for themselves”. The rider states that he earned as little as £8 an hour, which makes it below the national minimum wage.

“I don't know if I'm going to be able to make the rent next week or pay the bills. Many couriers have families, have dependents and have kids to feed”, explains Ethan Bradley, a courier at Deliveroo. He further states: "we feel like they couldn't care less whether their couriers make a living as long as their orders get delivered". 

I don't know if I'm going to be able to make the rent next week or pay the bills.

- Ethan Bradley, a courier at Deliveroo

The company's union has also failed to provide support for these couriers. Turbulence shook the couriers as one of the Deliveroo spokespeople, stated: “This small self-appointed union does not represent the vast majority of couriers who tell us they value the total flexibility they enjoy while working with Deliveroo, alongside the ability to earn over £13 an hour”. Alarmingly, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has revealed that some couriers earn as little as £2 per hour, making this extremely below the minimum wage. Due to this reveal, in late March, the company has lost over £2 billion from its valuation on the London Stock Exchange.

The company further denied any poor treatment of its workers by publishing a survey that showed that out of 8,500 couriers, 89% of them were satisfied with Deliveroo’s treatment and praising the company's flexible working conditions. Contrary to this statement, it is undeniable that most employees are unsatisfied with their working conditions, this being elevated with the recent rise in shares.

ImpACT International for Human Rights Policies stands with the Deliveroo couriers and demands they receive a fair wage and working conditions

 

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