Ocado workers represented by the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) at the corporation’s West London depot have voted to launch a campaign against Ocado, promising to escalate protests and strike action as long as Ocado refuses to engage.
Kwadwo Kyerewaa from BLMUK, Black Lives Matter UK, says: “BLM UK strongly supports the under-paid and exploited Ocado drivers who are overwhelmingly Black and people of colour. Ocado’s racial hierarchy is clear to see: at the bottom, darker skinned drivers must work 10+ hour shifts for insecure poverty pay topped up by food banks. While Ocado’s all white leadership team has individuals getting paid over £1 million a week to “stay motivated”. This predatory practice must end. All Ocado workers should be respected and paid above the poverty line.”
This follows the recent public outcry over frontpage revelations in the Guardian that these key workers are still being outsourced and earning under £5 per hour having served as key workers throughout the pandemic. Since the story broke, over £1000 has been donated to the strike fund.
Faizan Babar, courier for Ocado, said: “I am forced to work 6 or 7 days a week to support my family but on less than £5 per hour I’m still struggling to pay my bills. We worked through lockdown even though I fall in a high risk category. I have colleagues who got ill, lost their loved ones. If our hard work is worth the nation’s applause it’s worth decent pay and fair conditions and that is all we’re asking for, for us and for our families.”
Following this public outcry, last Friday Ocado announced its intention to end the use of third party courier companies in a blog post it subsequently deleted. However, in a process reminiscent of ‘fire and rehire’, Ocado is now advertising jobs on site for its agency partner, Job and Talent. Made with no commitment to bring existing workers in-house, this shift to zero-hours contract outsourcing threatens jobs, particularly motorbike couriers which Job and Talent does not recruit.
Since Ryde took over work previously outsourced to Stuart Delivery, workers say their earnings have fallen 50-70%. In addition to pay, concerns are being raised over health and safety issues and the impact of unfair, opaque processes for job distribution, shift allocation and terminations. Workers’ demands include trade union recognition, being brought in-house as workers, appropriate health and safety protections and £16 per hour pay. Ocado reported group profits over £73 million in February and plans to roll out its same day delivery service, Ocado Zoom, nationwide. The corporation has the biggest gap between CEO and staff pay in the UK.