Gig economy workers are showing the collective power to break the super exploitative practices of employers, argues Lucy Nichols
Deliveroo – the popular app-based food delivery service – is set to put its shares up for sale in April amidst concerns around the rights of those working for the company.
The company, which is worth £8.8 billion, will be floating its shares on the stock market next week, with the founder of the company, Will Shu, projected to make £27 million selling off a portion of his own shares.
Meanwhile, Deliveroo couriers make as little as £2 an hour, without any sick or holiday pay. Over a third of riders, who are self-employed, make less than minimum wage.
Potential investors have pledged not to buy shares of Deliveroo en masse, claiming that concerns about workers’ rights suggest the company is a ‘ticking time bomb’.
Some of the UK’s largest (and most wealthy) investment firms have decided against investing in Deliveroo, with international investment management companies doing the same. This is more a reflection of concerns that workers unionising and fighting for their rights is expensive, rather than hugely wealthy investors deciding to care about the working conditions of those who ultimately make them millions.
The company itself has admitted that the growing autonomy of its couriers could lead to problems for shareholders, arguing that any changes to the employment status of riders could irrevocably damage its ability to operate in the UK. It appears that the company’s entire business model relies on the mistreatment of workers, and in recently released statements, the company has argued that if couriers were to become full employees with minimum wage and sick pay, Deliveroo would be unable to operate in the UK.
This comes after a landmark ruling by UK courts have forced the rideshare app Uber to employ the workers who drive for the company. This victory, pushed through by organised workers from the App Drivers and Couriers Union, has had ramifications across the gig economy in guaranteeing UK Uber drivers access to sick pay, a minimum wage and holiday pay.
While these new rules only apply to Uber drivers and haven’t extended to Uber Eats, Just Eat or Deliveroo, it is clear that the big businesses behind the gig economy are worried about how they will be able to operate in the future, especially if their exploitative practices are placed under any more scrutiny.
It is not just the courts that threaten Deliveroo, as couriers are organising international strikes and protests against their de facto employer. Australia, Italy and France will see protests by couriers, who will also boycott the app for the day. In the UK, a strike is planned for 28 March, while the IWGB (Independent Workers Union of Great Britain) is planning protests for the day the shares are floated on the stock market.
It remains to be seen what will happen to Deliveroo, and close attention will have to be paid to the events of Wednesday. What is clear however is that an inspired wave of workers‘ organising is threatening to break the super exploitative gig economy. The whole movement must get behind this effort.
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