Deliveroo has signed a ‘historic’ union recognition deal with trade union GMB, which covers the rights of more than 90,000 self-employed riders in the UK, giving them more of a say in their employment. The Voluntary Partnership Agreement will see GMB have rights to collective bargaining on pay and consultation rights on benefits and other issues, including health, safety and wellbeing. The union will also be permitted to represent individual member riders in disputes, giving them a stronger voice. The Voluntary Partnership Agreement recognises that Deliveroo riders are self-employed, following a series of UK court Judgments which have confirmed this status.
GMB National officer, Mick Rix claimed the agreement was “the first of its kind in the world.” He added: “Tens of thousands of riders for one of the world’s largest online food delivery services will now be covered by a collective agreement that gives them a voice, including pay talks, guaranteed earnings, and representation in times of difficulty. Riders deserve respect for the work they do, and Deliveroo deserves praise for developing this innovative agreement with GMB – a blueprint for those working in the platform self-employed sector.”
Will Shu, Deliveroo founder and chief executive, said the company was delighted to “partner with the GMB in this first-of-its-kind voluntary agreement, giving self-employed riders flexibility, guaranteed earnings, representation and benefits”. He added that Deliveroo had “long called for riders to have both flexibility and security and this innovative agreement is exactly the sort of partnership the on-demand economy should be based on.
However, the deal has been met with mixed reaction and has not been welcomed by everyone. The agreement states that GMB will be recognised as the only independent trade union for Deliveroo riders in the UK, but this has been met with criticism by The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB). The IWGB say they are disappointed that GMB has effectively undermined their organising in this sector, without offering any concrete benefits for workers. The IWGB has been the main union for organising food delivery couriers in the UK and described the deal as “cynical” and claimed GMB had no record of organising couriers. They said “Deliveroo is seeking to undermine the efforts of couriers pursuing their rights through the courts and fighting to improve their working lives. The IWGB has always been the couriers’ union of choice and will continue to organise and take action to win better working conditions for Deliveroo couriers across the UK.” In a statement, the union accused Deliveroo of seeking to undermine the UK legal system in preventing a successful statutory recognition by securing a voluntary agreement with another union.
Deliveroo has also been accused of seeking endorsement for exploitative practices after signing a deal that does not ensure its couriers will be paid the legal minimum wage throughout their whole working day. Alex Marshall head of IWGN which has been fighting for improved rights for the couriers said that the new deal did not change current practices. Others are describing it as a PR stunt following the company being under pressure following a string of strikes and protests over pay and working conditions and given the timing as the deal comes ahead of their Annual General Meeting on 20 May 2022.
This deal falls at a time when the government has been accused of turning its back on working people after ministers failed to include an employment bill in the Queens speech on 10 May 2022. The government announced back in 2019 that it would bring forward a bill to improve people’s rights at work and to create a new single enforcement body to ensure workers’ rights are protected. However, this has not materialised and appears to have been shelved. Only time will tell as to whether the union recognition deal help pave the way for improved worker’s rights.