Deliveroo has been accused of signing a “cynical backdoor deal” after it announced it would recognise the GMB union as the official union of its couriers, despite many couriers being members of a different union representing gig economy workers.
Couriers told VICE World News they question the strength of the agreement made between GMB and Deliveroo, which does not ensure its drivers or riders are paid while waiting for an order from a restaurant, meaning their pay could fall below the legal minimum wage.
The Independent Workers' Union of Great Britain (IWGB), which has represented Deilveroo couriers since 2016 and staged strikes with its drivers, says GMB “has no record of organising couriers” but that the company has signed the agreement with GMB because it “presents no threat to its exploitative business practices.”
Deliveroo announced the “new partnership” on social media, days before the company’s AGM is set to take place on the 20th of May. IWGB has called the announcement “nothing more than a hollow and cynical PR move.”
It is unusual for a company to form a "partnership" with a union. Normally workers who are members of a union ask for recognition in order to negotiate topics like pay and holiday. While IWGB has evidence of membership after representing members in court, it is unclear what membership GMB has among drivers.
A company doesn’t have to recognise the union with the largest number of members in its workforce, and can tactically recognise a different union if it wants to block another from effective organisation in a workplace.
A spokesperson for IWGB told VICE World News: “Deliveroo has cynically made this backroom deal with a union that has no record of organising couriers and presents no threat to its exploitative business practices, while a case is pending in the Supreme Court on the same subject.”
“Deliveroo is seeking to undermine the efforts of couriers pursuing their rights through the courts and fighting to improve their working lives,” they said. “The IWGB has always been the couriers’ union of choice and will continue to organise and take action to win better working conditions for Deliveroo couriers across the UK."
While it is common practice for a union not to disclose exact membership
numbers before a recognition agreement, GMB said it couldn’t confirm the number of its members who work at Deliveroo.
When contacted by VICE World News, Deliveroo would not confirm GMB’s membership numbers among its workforce or provide a statement.
GMB later forwarded a statement on Deliveroo's behalf. It said: “This is a strong trade union recognition agreement covering pay bargaining, the right to dispute resolution, representation over health and safety, benefits and grievances.
“GMB will now negotiate pay deals on behalf of 90,000 riders – other groups have less than 1 per cent membership and are totally unrepresentative.”
When contacted by VICE World News, GMB could not confirm whether it had more than 1 percent membership.
Joe Durbidge, 30, a Deliveroo driver of three years working in central London and an IWGB member, said the union deal with GMB was “outrageous.”
“Deliveroo has essentially chosen a union that has no workers,” he said. “That's the core of it. I've never met any [GMB members] while I'm working and obviously I talk to riders all the time. I meet IWGB members when I'm working all the time.
Durbidge also questioned the value of the agreement, which would only see riders given a minimum wage while they were delivering the food – not while they were waiting, which make up a large part of the working time.
“[The agreement] is just completely useless,” said Durbidge. “It just shows that GMB are trying to make an agreement whatever, but I think it also shows without members they have no idea what paying in a gig economy looks like.”