Belfast couriers from Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Just Eat join forces in a Northern Irish first to demand a minimum income guarantee
The Gig Economy Project, led by Ben Wray, was initiated by BRAVE NEW EUROPE enabling us to provide analysis, updates, ideas, and reports from all across Europe on the Gig Economy. If you have information or ideas to share, please contact Ben on GEP@Braveneweurope.com.
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Food delivery couriers in Belfast have staged the first ever gig economy strike in Northern Ireland, furious at falling pay rates at a time when the cost of living is skyrocketing.
The ADCU union couriers are from Just Eat, Deliveroo and Uber Eats, and say that all three companies slashed pay rates per ride at the end of 2021, with a 25% reduction at Just Eat, Europe’s biggest food deliver company.
Fuel costs have risen 36% compared to last year in the UK, with vehicle maintenance costs up 30%. For self-employed food delivery couriers, the burden of rising costs falls squarely on their shoulders.
Nearly 200 couriers protested outside the McDonald’s at Boucher’s Road as part of the six-hour walkout from 1-5pm.
Speaking to the Gig Economy Project, Barbara (named changed), a Just Eat courier, said she had been left angered by the pay cut.
“The price of everything is just going up and up and they’ve just cut our pay by 25%. It doesn’t make sense.”
ADCU say couriers routinely earn as little as £100 for a 12-hour shift before fuel and maintenance costs. Barbara said she sometimes has to work 15-17 hours a day to make enough to get by.
“My son never gets to see me,” she said. “We can’t continue to live like this.”
She wants to see Just Eat increase their rates to at least £4.50 per delivery, and says that if nothing changes they will escalate their action.
“We’ll be striking again, again and again,” Barbara said. “Today is just about making a statement, if we don’t see a response then this will continue and we’ll go out for 8-hour’s next time, and then for a whole day.”
The strike is demanding a minimum income guarantee of at least £10 per hour plus costs.
Viraj (name changed) delivers for Uber Eats and Deliveroo in his car. He told the Gig Economy Project that before the price reductions in December, he was earning £12-£13 an hour, and that’s now down to less than £7 an hour. The companies did not communicate anything about the price reduction before or after it happened, he explained.
“The fuel price is up, the delivery price is down, so we have been hit from both sides,” Viraj said. “That’s why we are all together here and this will just be the start.”
He added that the fuel price rise is not the only problem; the price of his car insurance has also risen to 90p per hour, and the cost of car maintenance has risen too. He wants the platform bosses to come and see for themselves how difficult it is to make money.
“I challenge them to sit next to me in my car and see how much we are really earning. I’m not trying to hide anything. They can come and see for themselves how much it costs to be a food delivery courier.”
Viraj has been working in this job for 4 years and does not want to look elsewhere for work.
“I’m not going to switch, I’m going to fight for my rights here,” he said. “That is what we are all doing today. I think we are sending a strong message together.”
Before the strike, James Farrar, General Secretary of ADCU, said the historic first in Belfast would “certainly not be the last” unless the platforms respond to the couriers demands.
“Just Eat, Deliveroo and Uber extract vast profits from the local community while impoverishing workers and violating their rights,” he said.
“This may be the first gig economy strike in Northern Ireland, but it will certainly not be the last unless we see a rapid change in behaviour from these companies.”
Ahead of the strike, a Just Eat spokesperson told ‘Belfast Live’: “We take any concerns raised by our couriers seriously. Our delivery payment model has been designed to give couriers the flexibility to deliver when they choose. We continue to offer a competitive base rate to self-employed couriers and pay is reviewed regularly.”
The strike is part of a wave of action taking place in the UK and Europe as gig workers struggle with surging costs.
Stuart Delivery couriers, who also deliver on behalf of Just Eat, continue the longest strike in the history of the UK gig economy, which now stretches over three and a half months. In Germany, Lieferando couriers took strike action on Monday [21 March]. Protest all over France organised by the INV union of ridehail drivers are set for 28-29 March. There have also been recent strikes by Just Eat couriers in the Kent towns of Thanet and Folkestone over falling pay rates.
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