Workers at meal delivery platform Deliveroo went on strike in London on Wednesday, calling for better pay and working conditions.
Scooter and bicycle delivery riders waved flags and set off red flares as they rode through the streets of central London, while socially-distanced protests were also planned for York, Reading, Sheffield and Wolverhampton.
The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain, which organised the protests, told Sky News it had hundreds of Deliveroo riders as paid-up members.
Earlier this year, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism analysed invoices from more than 300 riders, concluding that one in three made less than £8.72 an hour – the minimum wage for those aged over 25 – with some earning as little as £2 per hour.
Deliveroo said it surveyed 8,500 riders this week and almost 90% were satisfied working for the company.
A spokesperson for the company said: “This small self-appointed union does not represent the vast majority of riders who tell us they value the total flexibility they enjoy while working with Deliveroo alongside the ability to earn over £13 an hour.
“We are proud that rider satisfaction is at an all-time high and that thousands of people are applying to be Deliveroo riders each and every week.”
The strike coincided with the first day of unconditional share trading for the company, which went public last week.
The initial public offering had been a disappointment, after a number of institutional investors skipped it, citing concerns about employment conditions and a dual-class shareholder programme that gives founder Will Shu greater control.
Shares slumped as much as 30%, wiping more than £2bn off the company’s initial £7.6bn valuation – just over a week after it was estimated at up to £8.8bn.
But shares closed up 2.1% on Wednesday after restrictions on sales were ended and members of the public were able to buy them.
Deliveroo riders who attended the strikes, however, said the company’s success had been made possible by their hard work.
Wave Roberts, a Deliveroo rider in Reading and vice chair of the union’s couriers branch, said the “success they claim to have had during the pandemic was built on our backs”.
He said: “It’s not sustainable. It’s got to the point where they’ve hired too many people. They’ve lowered the fees too much.”
Deliveroo operates in a dozen countries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia and it benefited during the pandemic, as restaurants and takeaways were closed in many places as part of government efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Alex Marshall, IWGB president and former bicycle courier, said: “Deliveroo presents a false choice between flexibility and basic rights but the Uber ruling showed that here as well as abroad, workers can have both.
“That is the least they deserve and what the public expects for our frontline workers.”