ADCU on 1 Feb demo | Photo: Unjum Mirza ADCU on 1 Feb demo | Photo: Unjum Mirza

ADCU members are stressing the importance of solidarity and rank-and-file action, reports Unjum Mirza

“1 February is a date I’ll never forget. It’s a memorable day filled with mixed emotions. Its four years since I lost my son on this very day. I can still hear my son as we join his teachers among tens of thousands of workers on strike united in struggle. On the RCN strike and demonstration in January I met nurses who cared for my son. It was a proud moment for me. Our struggles are the same. And it’s a global struggle. Exploitation is everywhere. If we don’t fight, we don’t win. Don’t expect anyone else to fight for you.”

As London organiser for the App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU), Hadi mobilised a delegation to support the strikes and protests on 1 February. It was his first day as an organiser in the newly established ADCU organising unit. Before joining the NEU-led demonstration in London, the ADCU joined Aslef and RMT pickets at Paddington in solidarity with the train drivers’ strike on the same day.

ADCU members on Aslef picket line, 1 Feb

ADCU London committee member Mehmet brought his family to support the strikes and demonstration: “the solidarity, the determination here today is brilliant – this is what we need to build everywhere.” The historic day of strike action and protests on 1 February represented the greatest level of union coordination and mobilisation thus far since the strike wave began last summer.


No matter which sector, workers know that they’re fighting the same fight over jobs, pay, and terms and conditions. Union leaders from all sectors, whether the post, transport, education or health, have all warned about the ‘uberisation’ of Royal Mail, the railways, schools and emergency care. Now meet the workers fighting Uber.

In 2021, the ADCU, representing private-hire drivers and couriers, secured a landmark ruling at the Supreme Court against Uber to confirm that its drivers are workers and are entitled to statutory protection under employment law. Ever since, the union has fought tooth and nail to translate this ruling into reality on the ground. The new year opened just as the last closed with strikes and strike ballots, the ADCU, now representing thousands of members, shifted gear and hit the road organising and mobilising.

In Nottingham, some fifty-plus drivers gathered to debate local and national issues with plans to organise and strike. Azeem explained how the RMT general secretary, Mick Lynch, had been an inspiration. He held his hand up and told the meeting, “the fingers on an open hand represent you as individuals; the clenched fist represents our power as a union.” ADCU Women’s officer, Cristina, told the meeting, “Operators need to take the safety of their drivers more seriously. Without safety, people, particularly women, won’t do this job. We all joined and built this union seeking social justice for all. Never forget that, because that is our driving force.”

ADCU Women’s Officer Cristina speaking in Nottingham
ADCU meeting in Nottingham

In Birmingham, Steve opened the meeting congratulating members on the success of the ADCU strike and protest in December 2022. Steve addressed the failings of the local authority as well as central-government attacks on all workers’ right to strike in light of the Tory’s Strike (Minimum Service Levels) Bill. Habib addressed members’ cases and noted the success the union had secured against unfair deactivations and licencing issues.

There was a moving tribute to Avtar Singh Jouhl who helped establish the Indian Workers’ Association and unionise the foundry industry. The meeting expressed its solidarity with refugees and vowed to fight racism and any attempts to divide and rule workers. The drivers recalled that it was Avtar who invited Malcolm X to Birmingham in 1965. A member said Malcom X said, ‘show me a capitalist and I’ll show you a bloodsucker’: “Yep, that’s Uber,” shouted another.

ADCU meeting in Birmigham


In Leicester, ADCU President, Yaseen Aslam, addressed some 100 drivers, stressing the collective power of the union. In response to one member who stated, “this is the man who defeated Uber in court,” Yaseen explained, “it wasn’t about one man. It was about the support, solidarity and the people behind me. It was about unity.”

ADCU President Yaseen Aslam speaking in Leicester

In a city that witnessed the sectarian political poison of the Indian right spill onto the streets last September, Ranjit too stressed the need for unity to a multicultural audience representing all faiths and none. In an inspiring speech he drew lessons from the victorious famers’ struggle in India against Prime Minister Modi’s unpopular farm laws for the struggles in Britain against Uber:

“In India, farmers united from Punjab, Gujarat, Utter Pradesh, everywhere and they all got together, and you know what, over 700 farmers died in the fight. Why? For righteousness, for the truth and what they believed in. It took a whole year of protests, strikes and struggle. And guess what? They stood united together and they won! We need to learn from this. When Uber came to Leicester at first it seemed good. But now, they say you have freedom – log-on, log-off when you want – but here’s the thing, they reduced the pricing. So, no we don’t have a choice: we have bills to pay, we have families to feed, we have to work. We don’t have freedom. But like the farmers showed us in India, united, we can win!”

Ozzy said, “Leicester has always been a battleground. But just as in the 1970s when Asian women led the unofficial strike at the Imperial Typewriters factory, we too will organise and unite against both racism and against the bosses at the same time.”

Habib drove over from Birmingham in solidarity and said, “I was expecting to see twenty drivers there. I’m seriously delighted to see such numbers. They’re all totally buzzing across the Leicester [social media] groups.”

London Calling

ADCU members Hadi and Farah on 1 Feb London demonstration

Meanwhile on the back of a packed January London meeting, the branch leadership organised a delegation to join the RCN nurses’ picket line at UCLH and the demonstration to Downing Street. On 1 February, the ADCU arrived in greater numbers to join the 500,000-strong strikes and protests across the country led by the NEU, PCS, Aslef, RMT and UCU. On Tuesday 7 February, the ADCU are holding a protest outside Transport for London’s (TfL) headquarters in Southwark. ADCU general Secretary, James Farrar posted a Facebook ‘live’ message detailing in depth the reasons for the protest:

“It is TfL policy that drivers are treated fairly, that workers have appropriate and reasonable driving hours, which presumably means drivers are paid for the working time, which is still the outstanding issue of the Supreme Court judgement. But we’re not being paid for the proper working-time hours. Working conditions have not improved.

“We’re taking this demonstration to TfL with core demands we’ve had for some time: we want £2.50 a mile; we want commission and pay to be transparent; we want something to be done about these unfair dismissals, the Kafkaesque deactivations; we want Uber to finally obey the Supreme Court ruling. Uber won’t obey the law and TfL still give them licences and still keep helping them screw drivers.

“TfL have their foot on the scales always in favour of operators. TfL are taking an imbalanced approach to legislation, cherry-picking legislation by pushing through things that cost us money, while holding back on things and succumbing to pressure from the big operators like Uber, Bolt, Addison Lee to create excess capacity by getting more drivers licenced quickly, increasing competition between drivers in a horrendous race to the bottom.

“Then there’s ‘dynamic pricing’ based on ‘data and real-time market conditions’. What does that even mean? It’s completely opaque. There’s no transparency at all. Simply put, the whole point of dynamic pricing is to increase their profits and their margin which is their share of the complete fare. But it’s also dangerous: dynamic pricing is algorithmically driven, which means we will eventually get to a situation where – directly or indirectly – the system is profiling people.”


The ADCU protest outside TfL is being coordinated with the FNV union in the Netherlands. FNV organiser Els Franssens explains, “We will be protesting at the same time as the ADCU. We’re going to gather in the north of the city with a caravan, parade of cars and drive to the Uber headquarters in Amsterdam, which is arguably their worldwide headquarters. It is from here where they service the rest of Europe, manage what happens in India and in Australia as well.” The two unions plan to set up a live-link on the day as part of the coordinated action.

The success of the ADCU rests on the unorganised, not so much being ‘organised’ but workers organising themselves, recruiting fellow workers, building the union on the ground, in communities, at airport and mainline train-station ranks, and uniting across our class in struggle. Also, they are carrying out vital research work in collaboration with Workers Info Exchange and the international worker-led alliance of app-based transport workers (IAATW), among others. 

London committee member Philip is most certainly right when he says, “the forces we’re up against are ferocious,” but Farah knows where our power to resist lies, at the base of the union: “it’s down to us to fight for ourselves.”

Before you go

Counterfire is growing faster than ever before

We need to raise £20,000 as we are having to expand operations. We are moving to a bigger, better central office, upping our print run and distribution, buying a new printer, new computers and employing more staff.

Please give generously.

Unjum Mirza

Unjum Mirza is a driver on the London Underground. He is on the Editorial Board of Tunnel Vision, the rank and file bulletin, and is an Aslef union branch chair.