Hundreds of Deliveroo couriers mounted protests against their treatment by the takeaway delivery group on Wednesday as the company marked its first day of open trading on the London stock market.
More than 200 Deliveroo couriers joined a demonstration in London, riding their bicycles and mopeds from the Deliveroo HQ in central London, according to the strike’s organisers, the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB).
Smaller protests were held across England, including in Reading, Sheffield, Wolverhampton and York.
Ahmed, 25, one of the cycle couriers protesting in London, said riders wanted better pay, employment rights and safety measures.
“It’s outrageous that the company can go on to the stock exchange at this difficult time for so many people and bring in that money for themselves,” he said. He claimed that Deliveroo had taken advantage of people losing jobs elsewhere to sign up thousands more riders, hitting earnings for those already working via the app.
Ahmed said he earned about £8 an hour, less than the legal national minimum wage, before any costs, and Deliveroo had not taken seriously riders’ complaints about low pay.
The company says its riders are independent, self-employed contractors so not entitled to the legal minimum wage, holiday pay or sick pay. The IWGB says riders should be recognised as “workers” – a status that includes most of those basic rights.
Kerry, 25, another cycle courier, said she had worked part-time for Deliveroo for six years and earned just over £9 an hour on average – slightly more than the legal minimum wage but excluding her costs and the time when she was waiting around for work.
“The [stock market float] is a time for us to be able to get heard. We’ve been demanding better pay for a long time.” She said she worked in another job as well as studying because “it is impossible to earn enough with a bike to get by”.
Deliveroo floated on the London Stock Exchange last week, and some 70,000 small investors bought up to £1,000 worth of shares through the Deliveroo app. However, trading was open only to large institutions until Wednesday. The shares were sold at 390p but lost 26% of their value on the first day after many City investors criticised the company’s structure and its treatment of workers, and refused to buy the shares.
David Cumming, chief investment officer at Aviva Investors, which has £365bn under management, was among those who chose not to invest. Just ahead of the stock exchange listing, he said: “A lot of employers could make a massive difference to workers’ lives if they guaranteed working hours or a living wage, and how companies behave is becoming more important.”
Multiple investors said the company’s refusal to make its riders salaried employees left it vulnerable to regulatory action. Uber – which also operates Uber Eats, a rival to Deliveroo – has recently been forced to make concessions to its drivers, who it treated similarly.
Investors also raised concerns about a share structure that gives the Deliveroo founder, Will Shu, control over the company for three years and intense competition from rivals such as Just Eat Takeaway, which could make it difficult for the loss-making Deliveroo to turn a profit.
Analysis by the thinktank New Financial found that Deliveroo’s first-day share price performance put it 1,765th out of 1,775 initial public offerings on London’s stock market.
On Wednesday the shares rose for the first time, climbing just over 2% to 286p. There had been fears that small investors, able to trade for the first time, might dump their holdings in a bid to limit their losses.
Deliveroo denied that it treated workers poorly. It said a survey it ran on Tuesday showed that 89% of 8,500 riders said they were “satisfied or very satisfied” with the company and flexibility was their priority.
A Deliveroo spokeswoman said: “This small, self-appointed union does not represent the vast majority of riders who tell us they value the total flexibility they enjoy while working with Deliveroo alongside the ability to earn over £13 an hour.
“We are proud that rider satisfaction is at an all-time high and that thousands of people are applying to be Deliveroo riders each and every week.”