Couriers are back on strike in Sheffield and Blackpool, in what is the longest-running gig economy strike in UK history, against app-based delivery firm Stuart Delivery.
The workers are calling for a pay rise and claim a new pay structure amounts to a pay cut of around 25%, while Stuart denies this.
‘Secret meeting’ cancelled
Last week, talks with non-union couriers in Sheffield organised by Stuart were cancelled at the last minute following a protest by IWGB couriers, who had not been invited to the meeting.
A spokesperson for Stuart told NationalWorld that the venue hosting the meeting cancelled the event before it began due to the protest, but IWGB has disputed this claim.
On 4 January, the IWGB Couriers Branch Tweeted that Stuart held “a secret meeting for chosen workers, with no union members invited”.
They wrote: “We found out, came down and asked to join the talk. And what did Stuart do?
“Cancelled the meeting and ran down the fire escape.”
A Stuart spokesperson said the meeting took place virtually later in the day and then in person a couple of days later, with a similar meeting taking place in Blackpool.
Alex Marshall, President, (IWGB), says: “The sign of a good employer is allowing workers to organise, unionise, elect workplace reps and to engage with them in order to resolve workplace issues.
“Currently Stuart Delivery is doing everything it can to avoid this which speaks volumes about the company. It’s time For Stuart to come to the table and negotiate.
There are also reports that Stuart is preparing to table an offer to drivers this week, although the firm declined to comment on this.
Local businesses back couriers
In Sheffield a number of local restaurants have signed a letter in support of the striking couriers, recognising the crucial role they played in helping food outlets remain open throughout the pandemic.
The letter, signed by more than 10 restaurants in Sheffield, states: “Through the pandemic, couriers have kept many businesses like ours alive. Whether restaurants are using their own couriers or Stuart riders, we believe that all couriers deserve a reward for the risks they took during the pandemic.
“A 24% cut in the base rate is no kind of reward. We are writing because we do not want to be silent about this. JustEat should not be silent either. Please urge Stuart to reverse the pay cut so we can get back to having a good relationship with both JustEat and Stuart.”
Industrial action organised by the Independent Workers of Great Britain trade union has seen protests and pickets at several branches of McDonalds, a high profile delivery partner of Stuart and JustEat, which fulfils many of its orders through Stuart.
While the strike action was launched by couriers in Sheffield, as the pay structure has been rolled out elsewhere further strikes have taken place in towns across the North of England, including Chesterfield, Blackpool and Huddersfield.
The action against Stuart is set to continue until the drivers demands, for at least £6 per delivery plus mileage and paid waiting times after 10 minutes, are met.
A strike fund set up to help the couriers has raised more than £14,000.
Parirs Dixon, Chair of the Sheffield Couriers & Logistics Branch (IWGB), says: “I just want to say thank you for the overwhelming support we’ve received from our union as well as members of parliament and the public.
“We are not alone in the shadows anymore and there is no going back. The strike will continue until we are heard.”
Stuart director’s pay rose 1000% in 2020
IWGB couriers feel particularly aggrieved that the new pay structure has been put in place after Stuart’s CEO Damien Bon increased his pay by 1000% between 2019 and 2020, up to more than £2.2m.
Marshall said: “Stuart CEO Damien Bon’s salary soared to over £2 million due to booming profits during the pandemic. However, the very workers who risked their lives daily to provide a vital service for the public are seeing pay slashed. These heroes deserve a pay rise too.”
There are also concerns that the firm, based in London, is only rolling out the new pay structure to areas outside the capital.
A Stuart representative has consistently declined to comment on claims by some couriers that the new pay structure will not be implemented in London.
A number of Labour MPs, including former shadow chancellor John McDonnell and Sheffield Hallam’s Olivia Blake, have expressed support for the striking couriers.
Blake said: “Sheffield will not stand idly by while JustEat and Stuart exploit and ignore our key workers. Their families must not be allowed to pay the price for Stuart’s corporate greed. On behalf of our city I call on them to do the right thing: reverse the pay cut and sit down to talk with the IWGB.”
A spokesperson for Stuart Delivery said: “This action by a small group of individuals, is unnecessary. Stuart’s management has met with couriers in Sheffield and Blackpool to listen to all their concerns, including pay.
“Stuart is committed to ensuring it is the most courier-centric platform that guarantees pay per hour that is among the highest in the sector.”