Riders facing poverty pay and dangerous work form global network to highlight Deliveroo’s exploitative business model to investors.
Deliveroo and its early investors expect to raise billions from an imminent IPO on the London Stock Exchange, but the riders who make their service possible are crying foul. Riders say Deliveroo’s predatory business model means workers shoulder significant risks, including low pay rates, dangerous working conditions and unfair deactivations.
A global network of Deliveroo riders is warning potential investors of growing legal, regulatory, and reputational risks, urging them not to back the company until it improves rider safety, conditions and pay. Today riders published a letter to Deliveroo CEO Will Shu calling on the company to stop treating riders like second-class citizens.
Deliveroo profits have soared during the pandemic, with its riders delivering takeaways and groceries to millions of people across 12 countries. Shu reportedly stands to see his stake in the company grow to up to $910 million with the IPO. “Instead of affording riders the rights they deserve, Deliveroo has been putting even more pressure on them,” says Stephen Cotton, General Secretary of the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), which is supporting the riders’ network. “While competitors like JustEat are changing their ways, Deliveroo has left the riders feeding our cities struggling to feed their own families.”
Deliveroo is the most protested platform in the world according to the Leeds Index of Platform Labour Protest, which records reported instances of protest by gig workers. Riders have reported their accounts being deactivated without explanation, having to meet unrealistic and dangerous delivery targets, and, amid a global pandemic, a lack of adequate health and safety measures. “This sits alongside continued attempts by Deliveroo to shirk responsibility for job security, minimum wages and social security protections by misclassifying riders as self-employed contractors,” says Cotton.
Despite attempts by Deliveroo and other gig economy companies to misclassify riders, courts – including the Supreme Courts in the United Kingdom and France – are increasingly recognising direct employment relationships.
Last month, a Dutch court ruled that Deliveroo misclassified its workers as independent contractors to avoid responsibility for holiday, sick pay and other employment entitlements. Spanish courts earlier came to a similar conclusion. These landmark rulings highlight a growing recognition of the legal and regulatory obligations on app-based companies.
“Deliveroo cynically uses the language of flexibility as a fig-leaf for shirking their responsibilities to employees,” says Felipe Diez Prat, member of Spanish union UGT and former Deliveroo rider. “Deliveroo’s IPO is significant because it speaks to a future in which companies are rewarded for driving down pay for workers.”
Without its riders, Deliveroo wouldn’t be the global brand it is today, says Deliveroo rider Jérémy Wick, a member of the CGT in Bordeaux. “Investors and consumers must tell Deliveroo to do right by the riders who makes its business viable. Be a responsible business: protect the health and safety of riders and give them fair and transparent pay.”
The ITF is supporting the #Rights4Riders network as part of its commitment to amplify organising by platform workers. In November, the ITF launched 10 gig economy employer principles, which provide an outline for ending exploitation in the gig economy.
Debbie Berendsen, Deliveroo rider and member of the Netherlands Trade Union Confederation (FNV), The Netherlands: "All of sudden one day, Deliveroo doubled the amount of co-workers in our town. There were not enough orders to go around anymore. After two years of working, I lost half of my income in just a few days’ time. That was really sad. We as riders stand in solidarity all over the world, taking Deliveroo to court and creating better work circumstances."
Zakaria Boufangacha, board member of FNV, The Netherlands: “Dutch courts decided last month that Deliveroo behaves like an employer and that all meal deliverers can claim an employment contract. This means deliverers are not only entitled to an employment contract, but also automatically entitled to collective wages, continued payment in the event of illness and to pay for waiting time at restaurants. Let this ruling be an example. It is unacceptable that platform companies earn billions from an IPO while platform workers do not even have a financial buffer to cope with setbacks. The FNV calculated that Deliveroo avoided 54 million euros in labour costs in the Netherlands alone last year.”
Michael Kaine National Secretary of the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU), Australia: “In Australia, Deliveroo has become a byword for exploitation. Since the company arrived it has continually eroded working conditions, driven down pay rates, pitted riders against each other for work and sacked hundreds of riders without warning. We currently have two cases against Deliveroo pending in Australia. Deliveroo riders have also become the first health and safety representatives elected in Australia in a gig economy company. Despite attempts by Deliveroo to stop this process and delay it, these riders have insisted that their rights under the law be recognised. We remain committed to holding Deliveroo to account and pushing for regulation of the gig economy.”
Alex Marshall, former courier and president of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain: “Investing in Deliveroo means buying into an inherently risky and exploitative business model. Deliveroo continues to ignore calls to recognise our unions. They’ve dragged riders through long, drawn out litigation to prevent us from securing the right to bargain collectively. In fact, Deliveroo has doubled down on its anti-worker stance by securing financial backing from Amazon, a company notorious for anti-union practices.”
Angelo Avelli of Riders x i Diritti, a national network of Italian riders’ groups: “Recent rider deaths in Italy, Spain and Ireland are a reminder that the Deliveroo model is inherently unsafe, forcing riders to work faster and for longer hours without insurance or health and safety training. Deliveroo’s profits come off the backs of riders taking all the risks."
Note to editors:
Members of the international Rights 4 Riders Network include:
- Belgische Transportarbeidersbond Union Belge du Transport et de la logistique (BTB) – Belgium
- Catering and Hotels Industries Employees General Union – Hong Kong
- Collectif National des Livreurs CGT – France
- Federazione Italiana Lavoratori dei Trasporti (FILT CGIL) – Italy
- Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) – United Kingdom
- Netherlands Trade Union Confederation (FNV) – Netherlands
- Riders x i Diritti – Italy
- Transport Workers' Union (TWU) – Australia
- UILTrasporti – Italy
- Unión General de Trabajadores (FSMC-UGT) – Spain
- International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF)
Riders are available for comment. To arrange, contact Dalila Mahdawi: +447702259612 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About the ITF
The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) is a democratic global union federation of nearly 700 transport workers trade unions representing around 20 million workers in 150 countries. The ITF works to improve the lives of transport workers globally, encouraging and organising international solidarity among its network of affiliates. The ITF represents the interests of transport workers' unions in bodies that take decisions affecting jobs, employment conditions and safety in the transport industry.