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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain


The Chilli Squid on Wheels strike

by New Worker correspondent

LAST FRIDAY evening, the small non-TUC union, the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), organised a boycott of oriental fast food chain Wagamama in Sheffield and York by Deliveroo delivery cyclists. IWGB is protesting against at the fact Deliveroo in both cities recently made changes to how their app functions, which in many cases has effectively resulted in a 50 per cent pay cut to well below minimum wage.

This was paralleled by similar action in Paris, where French riders protested and boycotted orders in Paris as well as blockading additional sites there.

The boycott, which hit Wagamama Valentine’s Day sales, highlighted the poor treatment of Deliveroo riders, who hope that boycotts will pressure clients such as Wagamama to take more responsibility for exploitation of riders delivering its food.

Wagamamahas 150 branches in Britain and sanctimoniously prides itself on “sustainability, business ethics and ‘kaizen’, Japanese for good change”. Whilst the chain recently celebrated a record breaking £1 million weekly profit from takeaways, it is notorious for poor treatment of delivery riders and long waiting times. Deliveroo riders are paid per delivery rather than per hour, so waiting times have a direct impact on pay, which can take income well below the national minimum wage.

Pay for Deliveroo riders in York and Sheffield has been pushed down still further by recent changes made by Deliveroo to the way its app works in these Yorkshire cities. The Booking Zones system, in which riders applied for and worked specific time slots, has been replaced by a “free login” system that workers say creates a free for all, forcing riders to race around for hours with no pay at all.

dangerous

Greg Howard, Deliveroo rider and secretary, Couriers & Logistics Branch (IWGB), gave a stark example of Wagamama’s methods: “Competition for each little job is so fierce now, it’s dangerous. Say you get ‘lucky’ and manage to beat everyone else to the punch for a 30-minute job that pays £3.20. When you spend an extra 30 minutes at Wagamama waiting for the order, that leaves you earning less than half of the national minimum wage. These are the scraps we’re made to fight for. We’ve got parents working 12-hour shifts to support their kids and still being forced onto benefits to keep a roof over their heads. I just don’t see how that’s legal or justifiable.”

Before the action Will Bossman, a Deliveroo rider in York, said: “Companies like Deliveroo are using this technology to turn back the clock on employment rights for their own profit. We don’t want to be millionaires, we just want Deliveroo to play by the rules and pay us fairly for all the hard work we do. Deliveroo doesn’t listen to us, but we’re hoping that if clients like Wagamama start losing profit, they’ll have a reason to pressure Deliveroo into respecting basic workers’ rights. That’s why we’re asking people to boycott Wagamama tonight.”

This is not the first such action. Just before Christmas a boycott organised by IWGB Spitalfields branch in east London took place. Although both Wagamama and Deliveroo refused to address workers’ concerns directly, workers there now report reduced wait times and improved conduct.