On a rainy Sunday night, as you plug in your Deliveroo order for a special fried rice and Peking duck, spare a thought for the absolute hero cyclist who lugs that tasty Noodle House order to your front door. Not only do they have to dodge unpredictable British drivers (and weather) to deliver you a takeaway, but their wage and rights as a worker are worryingly unstable.
Perhaps we should think about this more often. The modern gig economy—a labour market centred on short-term contracts—has decentralised workers rights, meaning companies like UberEats and Deliveroo aren’t obliged to offer workers basic minimum wage, due to them not technically being employees.
Recent changes, such as UberEat’s decision to lower the minimum spend on food orders from £4.26 to £3.50, have resulted in drivers getting even less money per delivery, making it near impossible to pay rent, support children, or even just afford insurance on their motorbike.
UberEats and Deliveroo drivers from across the UK staged a strike over these changes yesterday, outside Uber's headquarters in Central London. McDonald’s, JD Wetherspoon, and TGI Fridays employees also walked out over pay disagreements on the same day.
We spoke to some of the strikers about the changes they are hoping for.
Tom, Deliveroo cycle courier
“I've worked for Deliveroo for about three years now. For me, it's a job that I come in and out of when other work dries up. At the moment I'm studying, so it's quite good for that. I probably represent the sort of drivers [Deliveroo and UberEats] want everyone to think works for them, but I can tell you, at 3 PM on a weekday, when there are no orders coming in, I have the privilege to think, ‘Well, I'm only going to get one or two deliveries an hour, so I'm not going to bother.’ Whereas a lot of people have to take whatever they can, and that's when you'll get into situations where people earn less than minimum wage. The vast majority of people rely on it as their main income, and are out there all day even when there are no orders coming in.”
"I'm here [because] I want my employer or, er, my ‘business partner’ or whatever, to give me the guarantee that whenever I go out and work for them, I'll get minimum wage—ideally more than that. In particular, I'm here in solidarity with my colleagues who are at the even sharper end.”
"[They need to] take responsibility for their workforce."
Hussein, UberEats and Deliveroo motorbike courier
"I work for UberEats and Deliveroo. I work as a courier. I'm here because Uber has cut our money in half, and we're here to say no to that because it's not fair to work for that. We used to get minimum per order £4.50, and now the minimum is £2.80 or £3.50-something.
"We hope Uber will increase the payment to £5 minimum. That would be fair for us because we have a lot of expenses to do, on the bike, on the insurance, this and that, so now we're getting less than the minimum wage. You can only really do two drops an hour. If you can do two, that's £7—less than minimum wage.”
“It's affecting our day-to-day life because now we're making half what we used to make before. We've got children to support, we've got house rent and expenses to pay.”
"Uber, be fair with us."
Rosie, UberEats motorbike courier
“The first issue is to get a better payment, but many other drivers and I also have issues with, for example, getting into the buildings. Especially, when they don't have a lift and sometimes have 30 floors—my jacket is heavy, my boots are heavy. We're not paid to do this, because we're not paid for the time, we're paid for delivery.”
“I'll have been working 12 hours for seven days a week—for me it is very hard. Yesterday when I did a delivery, the building didn't have lights, and it's scary. There are problems in the street with gangs, sometimes they follow. It's very dangerous, but I need to work because I have children who depend on me.”
Samir, UberEats and Deliveroo motorbike courier
“We are here to complain about our payment for UberEats. What they were paying us is not very good, but it was OK, and suddenly, we opened our app, and our payment was cut in half. It's not wise for us to work with them, because payment is really bad.”
“It's really dangerous for us, especially when it's raining, but we have no choice. I've been with them for nearly a year now and it's difficult, we've tried to get good payment. It is my main job, it's made a big difference. They need to pay us at least like before.”
“I hope they understand what we do is a really hard job, so they have to pay us good money. It's not an easy job.”
Ibraham, UberEats and Deliveroo motorbike courier
“[The job is risky because] it's cold, raining, and we have to walk, the motorbike is not safe, the other drivers don't care about motorbikes. There are too many expenses, like insurance and parking tickets.”
“I'm here because I hope that Uber and Deliveroo will make some change with their payment, and will care more about their drivers. They make money and we make money, but we are in the street and they are sitting in an office.”
“I don't feel they listen to us.”