Organising in Deliveroo; Fighting Back in The ‘Gig’ Economy

The writer is a IWW member and organiser based in Greater Manchester

In recent months, Deliveroo riders in different cities across the UK & Europe have been striking against worsening pay and conditions, and precarious employment. Deliveroo riders are paid as low as £3.80 a delivery, and as “self-employed” workers they receive no guaranteed minimum wage, holiday pay, sick pay or any of the other workers’ rights so many of us take for granted – and that our predecessors fought for.

Recently in Manchester, the IWW organised a strike of Deliveroo riders on 14th and 26th February. This was the result of years of outreach on our part, and the reputation we’d gained as a fighting, organising union in the ‘gig’ economy following previous strikes in other cities in the UK. One of the riders who we’d leafletted got in touch with us, wanting to organise a strike. We organised a meeting, simultaneously held in Arabic, English and another language I don’t even know!

At the meeting, we voted to strike on the 14th, and to fight for 5 demands:

• At least £5 a delivery, £8 for double orders.
• £10 an hour waiting time.
• £1 per extra mile travelled.
• No deliveries outside of the city centre zone.
• Allow motorcyclists equal access to orders as cyclists.

On our first strike, we got over 80% of Deliveroo’s full time riders to picket Deliveroo’s two offices in Manchester – on Redhill St in Ancoats and Peter’s House in St Peters’ Square. Redhill Street office is Deliveroo’s “rider hub” in Manchester. It’s where Deliveroo interview new riders and hold weekly drop ins to address any problems riders have with their app or Deliveroo in general. When we rocked up with the majority of their riders, we found they’d locked the gates and sent all their staff home! After we sent a delegation of riders and supporters in to check this was true, we set off to their St Peter’s Square office, marching down the road, chanting and horns blaring, quickly followed by a police escort (not one we’d asked for!).

Our second strike was also well attended and supported. The support we received from the public on both days was amazing. The support of unions and organisations across the left was vital to making both strikes so successful, and the riders were really happy to see this support. The organised working-class movement must be central to any relevant anti-fascist or anti-racist movement. Capitalists have always used migrant labour to undercut the terms and conditions of the working class, and the far right have used the fear of this as a recruiting tool. Trade unions are vital in combating this – by organising migrant and English born workers together, and fighting for better pay, better conditions and a voice for working class people in communities across this country, we address this fear in a meaningful way, rather than the false hopes peddled by the anti-working class far right. In doing so, we give confidence to working class people and empower them in their workplaces and communities, building for a society run in our interests rather than those of the rich.

Organising in Deliveroo has been an eye opener for me – the majority of the full-time riders in Manchester are immigrants from Eritrea or the Middle East. I’ll never forget the words of one rider, who came here as a refugee from Afghanistan – “We’ve all ran before. We’ve seen strikes and protests fail, coups take over our countries, protestors put in jail. Here we’re free. Here we fight. Where else we gonna run, what else we gonna do?” If he can stand and fight, then so can you. What else are you going to do? If you want to support our organising in Deliveroo and other industries, you can join the IWW here, or donate to our organising fund. – https://www.paypal.me/ManchesterIWW

NB: 0161festival.com is a platform for sharing a variety of articles about sports, arts, politics, history and Manchester. 


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