Deliveroo couriers in Bristol went on strike on Friday demanding better pay.
On Friday night, the Bristol Couriers Network called a strike of all Deliveroo couriers in the city. Over 100 couriers on bikes and scooters were there in the rain, demanding that Deliveroo increase their pay. The impact was immediate, causing major delays and a shutdown of 90 restaurants on the app. Even before it started, Deliveroo put on a ‘boost’ (temporary pay increase) for Friday night and the whole weekend to try to break the strike.
The demands of the strike focused on the poverty pay that Deliveroo is currently getting away with:
Paid waiting times in restaurants at £10 per hour
Increased pay per distance at £1 per mile
An increase in minimum drop pay to £5 per drop
No victimisation of workers taking collective action
Secondary demands included better provision of kit, allowing customers to tip after the drop and transparency about how the app calculates pay.
Bristol Couriers Network is a new network for Deliveroo, UberEats and Stuart couriers operating in the city. The Network is not a union, and raised money for the strike fund through donations. Platform workers don’t have to ballot for strike action since, technically, if you’re not recognised as a worker then the legislation doesn’t apply, making militant action easier to pull off. While the denial of worker status is how Deliveroo manages to get away with abysmally low pay, the Bristol Couriers Network and other organisations are using the company’s strategy against them.
At the demo on College Green, the Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees spoke about his aspiration to make Bristol a Living Wage city and was put under pressure over parking regulations that negatively impact couriers using motorbikes. One of the striking couriers later observed: “It may well be just a political manoeuvre, but the fact that he had to come here is progress.”
James Farrar of the United Private Hire Drivers (the branch of the Independent Workers of Great Britain for private hire drivers, mainly Uber) also spoke and commended the couriers for their decision to take collective action rather than waiting for a “politician on a white horse” or hoping for technical fixes through the courts. UPHD have recently organised major actions in London over Transport for London’s plan to apply the congestion charge to private hire drivers, which would decimate their incomes.
The strike action went on to target some of the most popular restaurants on Deliveroo: Mission Burrito, Wagamama, KFC and McDonald’s. With the sound of the horns and engines of the motorbikes roaring outside, a group went into each restaurant, successfully persuading each restaurant’s manager to phone Deliveroo management and pass on their demands. Platform workers have to be more creative than regular employees in identifying pressure points, but with so many corporations incorporating couriers’ low-paid labour into their business models, there are a lot to choose from.
Donate to the Bristol Couriers Network strike fund here.