The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) is challenging Deliveroo’s denial of collective bargaining rights in the Supreme Court, months after the gig-economy giant signed a so-called ‘partnership’ deal with the GMB union. A victory for the IWGB would mean that delivery couriers working for the company would be classified as workers for the purpose of Article 11. A victory would set a precedent for collective bargaining rights across the gig economy, and it would pave the way for a future worker status claim (limb B) to ensure that Deliveroo couriers have both basic worker rights and flexibility.
Shaf Hussain, Deliveroo Courier, says: “Ever since I started working for Deliveroo 5 years ago I’ve seen fees steadily decrease, orders become harder to get, and operating costs increase. At a time when I can barely pay my energy bills and the cost of living is still increasing, I find it offensive that Deliveroo has put so much time and money into denying its workers the basic right to have a collective voice. Management at Deliveroo clearly has no idea what it’s like to be a full-time rider, and is so scared of what we might ask for that it’ll move heaven and earth to deny us the option to negotiate. This case isn’t about them disagreeing with our demands, it’s about them plugging their ears and pretending that our experiences don’t exist.”
Deliveroo’s announcement of its union partnership deal – in which the company claims it will negotiate with GMB over certain conditions – stands in stark contrast with its stance that self-employed (independent contractor) status prevents riders from any entitlement to collective bargaining rights. The GMB agreement, which began this month, fails to address numerous problems with Deliveroo’s employment practices in proposed negotiations, including the lack of holiday pay and pensions. The agreement also does not tackle overhiring and unpaid restaurant waiting times, the biggest causes of low pay. IWGB is seeking the right to negotiate improvements to all aspects of couriers’ working life, in particular, pay, hours and holidays, as the statute requires.
Alex Marshall, Former Courier and President (IWGB), said: “It is outrageous that Deliveroo is continuing to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds fighting the IWGB in court over collective bargaining rights when it has just granted collective bargaining rights to another unrepresentative union. Clearly, Deliveroo accepts the legitimacy of collective bargaining for couriers but is simply not prepared to engage in collective bargaining with the union that has the largest membership of gig-economy couriers. Deliveroo should be investing this money in courier pay and conditions, rather than trying to silence its workers who only want a seat at the table.”
The IWGB began organising with Deliveroo couriers in 2016 around pay, precarity, and safety. It has the largest membership of app-based couriers of any union in the UK. In 2020, the IWGB launched the #ClappedAndScrapped campaign against Deliveroo’s unfair dismissal practices, backed by a cross-party group of 60 MPs in an Early Day Motion. In April 2021, the IWGB coordinated huge strikes during the company’s disastrous IPO – labelled one of the worst in London’s history. In May this year, IWGB members attended the company’s first AGM to question the board on its poor employment practices.
The IWGB has a history of landmark legal victories across sectors with precarious employment, most notably the 2021 ruling that foster carers are workers for the purposes of Article 11. In 2020, the IWGB also won basic health and safety protections for workers across the gig economy.
Image: Guy Smallman