Glasgow food couriers to strike in solidarity with fast food workers

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Caption: Flickr / Franklin Heijnen

Sam Doak
Reporter

Ubereats couriers are planning a fast food shutdown on October 4 in solidarity with workers of TGI Fridays, Wetherspoons and McDonald’s

Couriers for the food delivery service Ubereats have announced they will be participating in industrial action this week. According to the advocacy group Couriers Network Scotland, this will involve a coordinated strike during which couriers will not accept deliveries, as well as a gathering of workers in George Square.

The upcoming strike is due to occur on Thursday 4 October and follows similar industrial action carried out last month in response to pay disputes between the popular food delivery service and its workers. Thursday’s strike has been organised to coincide with separate upcoming industrial action that has been planned by employees of TGI Fridays, Wetherspoons and McDonald’s and is expected to affect a number of the companies’ respective outlets across the country.

The demands of both the participating couriers and fast food workers primarily concern pay conditions in their respective industries. Couriers Network Scotland are calling for Ubereats couriers to be paid at a rate of £5 per delivery with an additional £1 for every mile a courier has to travel in order to complete a delivery. They argue this will both help to ensure that couriers are able to reliably earn a living wage and provide a safer working environment for couriers, whom they claim often have to complete orders at an aggressive pace in order to generate sufficient earnings. The stated aim of the striking fast food workers is to secure union recognition, a living wage of £10 per hour and a resolution to disputes centring around their employers’ distribution of tips.

Sympathy strikes are generally prohibited in the UK. Statutory restrictions put into place in previous decades dictate that strikes must normally be carried out directly by workers against their employers. Controversially, however, businesses such as Ubereats and Deliveroo have previously argued that their workers are self-employed, a definition intended to free the companies from legal obligations such as the provision of the national minimum wage.

When queried about the legality of coordinated strike action between couriers and fast food workers a spokesperson for Couriers Network Scotland argued that, as a result of their employment status, the statutory restrictions that normally govern industrial action do not apply to Ubereats couriers. He argued that Ubereats Couriers are therefore free to organise and coordinate their industrial action with outside groups.

Couriers Network Scotland’s spokesperson stated: “These types of workers don’t have the same rights as other workers, like the right to holiday and sick pay, the right to collective bargaining, and the right to pensions. UberEats obviously like the lack of regulation that this employment status gives because it means that they can hire and fire workers at will and they can boost profits by saving on labour costs.

“It presents a massive problem for Uber though. Because we’re not classed as employees and official workers, the trade union laws that the Tories have spent years refining to throttle the power of strikes don’t apply to us. There is nothing legally stopping us, as self-employed workers, coordinating our strikes with that of other workers – something that the government stamped out through legislation.”

Campaigners working on behalf of TGI Fridays, McDonald’s and Wetherspoons employees have welcomed the support they have received from food couriers. Lauren McCourt, a McDonald’s employee and member of the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union expressed this sentiment in a recent statement.

McCourt argued: “It’s about time the workers who make the food and deliver it came together and fight together. I know McDonald’s workers and delivery drivers don’t always get along because of the time pressures we both work under. But that’s the fault of our bosses who make us work under these conditions. We need to turn the fight to them and stand in solidarity with each other.”