Deliveroo couriers in locations across the country are planning more strikes in April, demanding higher pay in a co-ordinated wave of “rolling strikes”. This follows some very partial victories in a few places.
Couriers are falsely categorised as “self-employed independent contractors” rather than “self-employed limb (b) workers” or “employees”, either of which would more accurately reflect our dependency on and relationship to Deliveroo. This miscategorisation allows Deliveroo to deprive us of basic workers’ rights, including minimum wage. Pay is low, insecure, and in many places has been decreasing.
Since October we have struck five times in Bristol, three of those times in January and February. These strikes have increasingly inspired other places to organise and also strike, and both February strikes were timed to coincide with strikes in other places.
We know that the strikes have significantly impacted Deliveroo in Bristol and elsewhere. Likewise, almost all active riders recognise the problems with Deliveroo, and the large majority support the demands and strikes, with a majority having participated: either joining protests on the day or choosing to not work but stay at home.
On the three strikes this year, Deliveroo has offered pay “boosts” to try to tempt people to strikebreak, keeping them active for several days afterwards – an immediate small win. We’ve forced longer-term concessions from them in Bristol.
They seem to have more-or-less implemented a hiring freeze, one of our demands. Average pay per delivery seems to be slowly increasing again, no longer decreasing. Nottingham, who’ve also struck powerfully, had their minimum pay per delivery increased back to the level it had been at in Autumn.
By giving these small concessions, Deliveroo is hoping to placate couriers and prevent future strikes. We must not and will not be bought off so easily.
We are becoming increasingly co-ordinated nationally. Couriers in at least 14 different towns and cities have been organising, with strikes in at least 10 this year. Couriers from most of these places participated in a joint meeting in early March – almost all IWGB union members – and we’ve convened an IWGB national Deliveroo committee. Most places have very similar or identical core demands, deliberately.
We decided to experiment with a national programme of “rolling strikes”, where different places would strike on different weeks. This means that Deliveroo is constantly being hit in one place or another, even without us yet escalating to weekly strikes anywhere. It also allows us to more easily support and attend each others’ strikes. It’s a flexible strategy, and some places closer to each other have discussed striking on joint dates. Multiple strikes are already planned for April.
In Bristol since mid-February we have been focussing on building and consolidating our central organisation and recruiting to the IWGB, doing phone banking and the like. We now have a significant and growing number of members, and are bringing in more organisers. On Wednesday 27 March we will have our next big meeting to plan future waves of strike action, and to discuss the question of “worker status”.
BCN-IWGB’s core organisers and committee members – and the IWGB Couriers’ and Logistics branch as a whole – recognise that our categorisation as non-workers is false and harmful. Indeed, IWGB is fighting ongoing legal battles over this, which if they win will automatically give us — at the least — holiday, sick and pension pay, and collective bargaining rights.
However, Deliveroo have waged a propaganda war, dishonestly claiming that if we were categorised as workers it would necessarily make us less “flexible”. This need not be true. Unfortunately many couriers have been persuaded by and spread this, and previously even some people who have attempted to support courier organising.
For this reason it is an important discussion for us to have, and hopefully eventually we can include it in our core demands in Bristol and elsewhere.
We need money for our strike hardship fund, to support those most in need to be able to strike. Donate to the Bristol Couriers’ Strike Fund here.
Zack is a member of Bristol Couriers’ Network. This piece was originally published on Workers’ Liberty.