Delivery drivers for food-ordering platforms including Deliveroo and Uber Eats are staging a Valentine’s Day strike to demand better pay and conditions.
The stoppage on Wednesday is being organised by a grassroots group, Delivery Job UK, many of whose members are Brazilian. It claims to have more than 3,000 supporters in London and several other cities.
The group hopes to draw attention to the low pay and insecure conditions faced by drivers, many of whom work on several delivery apps in parallel.
App-based delivery drivers are generally classified as self-employed contractors, meaning their employers are not legally obliged to pay them the statutory “national living wage” of £10.42 an hour, due to increase to £11.44 in April.
That status was confirmed by a supreme court ruling in November that found Deliveroo riders were not “workers”, after a long-running battle by the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain for the right to unionise and bargain on their behalf.
One of Delivery Job UK’s organisers, who spoke to the Guardian on condition of anonymity, said it was difficult to earn the national living wage – even before costs are taken into account.
The platforms tend to pay a flat-rate minimum a job, plus an additional fee based on distance; but these vary over time and drivers complain it is unclear how they are worked out.
“It’s very random: we don’t know the algorithm, we don’t know how it’s calculated,” said the organiser, who added that he hoped to encourage consumers ordering a takeaway to think about the conditions faced by drivers.
Data from thousands of couriers collected by the app Rodeo, which allows them to compare their earnings across delivery companies, suggested fees were cut in 2022 and 2023, despite high inflation.
Deliveroo is not included, as it has declined to allow drivers to make their details available.
Dr Callum Cant, from Essex Business School at the University of Essex, who studies the sector, said: “The single problem we have had with these apps over the last few years has been the continual reduction in real wages. So over time, things have got worse.”
He added: “These workers are so often treated as invisible. And they’re taken for granted.”
Deliveroo has a voluntary agreement with the GMB trade union, which is meant to ensure they are paid at least the national living wage, plus costs, for the time they are on an order.
A spokesperson for the company said: “Deliveroo aims to provide riders with the flexible work riders tell us they value, attractive earning opportunities and protections.
“Thousands of people apply to work with Deliveroo each month, rider retention rates are high and the overwhelming majority of riders tell us that they are satisfied working with us.”
An Uber Eats spokesperson said: “We offer a flexible way for couriers to earn by using the app when and where they choose. We know that the vast majority of couriers are satisfied with their experience on the app.”
Separately, more than 1,000 Amazon staff are expected to strike at the company’s Coventry warehouse from Tuesday to Thursday, amid a pay dispute.