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Sheffield and Blackpool: UK’s longest ever gig-economy pay strike resumes after secret pay talks exposed

The UK’s longest ever gig-economy pay strike resumes today as Sheffield and Blackpool couriers from the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) relaunch industrial action and will picket McDonalds branches every day this week.

Last week courier company  Stuart invited selected riders to closed-door meetings on pay which excluded all unionised workers. When IWGB members staged a peaceful demonstration outside the Sheffield location, they were informed by venue security that the meeting had been cancelled and Stuart staff had left the building via a ground floor fire escape.

Alex Marshall, President, (IWGB), said: “The sign of a good employer is allowing workers to organise, unionise, elect workplace reps and to engage with them in order to resolve workplace issues. Currently Stuart Delivery is doing everything it can to avoid this which speaks volumes about the company. It’s time For Stuart to come to the table and negotiate. Stuart CEO Damien Bon’s salary soared to over £2 million due to booming profits during the pandemic. However, the very workers who risked their lives daily to provide a vital service for the public are seeing pay slashed. These heroes deserve a pay rise too.”

Strike action began on 6 December when Stuart slashed its base rate of pay per delivery by 24 percent from £4.50 to £3.40, with protests spreading to Chesterfield and Sunderland. The majority Black and Minoritised workforce demands at least £6 per delivery plus mileage and paid waiting times after 10 minutes and their strike fund has raised almost £14,000. The IWGB is also bringing a claim against Stuart on behalf of over 150 couriers nationwide for unlawful denial of worker status and basic rights like holiday pay and a guaranteed minimum wage.

Despite undertaking high-risk key work through the pandemic, Stuart couriers live on poverty pay and are still denied basic worker rights. Meanwhile, in 2020 Stuart’s highest earning director received a 1000 percent pay rise over the previous year to over £2 million, as the corporation saw a £20 million profit increase during the height of the pandemic.

Parirs Dixon, Chair of the Sheffield Couriers & Logistics Branch (IWGB), says: “I just want to say thank you for the overwhelming support we’ve received from our union as well as members of parliament and the public. We are not alone in the shadows anymore and there is no going back. The strike will continue until we are heard.”

Image: IWGB.

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