After the Mirror’s investigation into working practices at Deliveroo, not only was the company facing a rider and investor revolt – but Marcus Rashford wanted a word.
The England and Manchester United striker is to hold talks with Deliveroo following yesterday’s revelations by The Mirror, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism and ITV News.
Our #IsWorkWorking probe found that on thousands of their shifts, some riders were averaging less than the minimum wage.
Deliveroo is a major backer of Rashford’s Child Food Poverty Task Force, and also sponsors the England team trianing kit.
The player was just learning that injury would keep him out of the England squad facing San Marino when his spokeswoman issued a statement.
“Marcus is currently within the confines of the national team camp but will discuss the investigation with the senior team at Deliveroo in detail at the earliest opportunity,” she said.
“The Child Food Poverty Taskforce was built to support the most vulnerable children across the UK.
“Minimum wage is the absolute starting point to stabilising households where children are vulnerable. This discussion will be had privately to acquire clarity.”
Deliveroo’s logo features prominently on the England training kit, which players including Rashford have been seen wearing all week at their training camp.
The firm has hailed its partnership with the Rashford Task Force.
“As part of the Marcus Rashford Child Food Poverty Task Force, we knew we had to do more,” it said in October.
“Today, we are announcing our new commitment to deliver thousands of meals to families.”
But our #IsWorkWorking investigation had heard from 21-year-old Reece Lloyd from Newcastle, who said: “You have Deliveroo backing Marcus Rashford’s food campaign but some of my colleagues are earning barely enough to live on.” Reece had to seek help from a university hardship fund to support his low wages.
And Marc Jelly in Pontypool, South Wales, told us: “I didn’t want to resort to food banks, but family made up food hampers for us. It made me go into debt with my rent, my bills, my electric. I struggled with my mental health.”
Deliveroo claims its 50,000 riders are paid “more than £10 on average across the UK” and “regularly over £13 at busy times”.
But analysis of thousands of invoices uploaded by riders, collected by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain and analysed by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, showed that on more than half the shifts in the sample (56%) riders averaged less than that rate for their Deliveroo sessions.
Meanwhile, 41% of shifts sampled made on average less than £8.72 an hour, the national minimum wage.
Deliveroo says our claims are unverifiable and misleading.
As Deliveroo prepares for a stock market flotation that could raise £8.8bn, and may net its chief executive Will Shu £500m, it finds itself in the spotlight. With help from a $575m investment from Amazon, the company has soared in value during the pandemic.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak has feted Deliveroo, calling it a “British success story” and saying he often enjoys a Deliveroo salad lunch.
He is said to have helped create an environment that encouraged Deliveroo to list its shares in London.
But yesterday, the firm was facing not just what the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain called a “Rider Roovolt”, but an investor insurgency.
At least three big investors have pulled out of the IPO in the last 36 hours, each one citing concerns about labour practices.
Aviva Investors and Aberdeen Standard were first to say they would not invest.
Andrew Millington, head of UK equities at Aberdeen Standard, said: “We will not be taking part in the Deliveroo IPO as we are concerned about the sustainability of the business model, including but not limited to its employment practices.”
Then came BMO Global Asset Management, one of the largest banks in North America.
Meanwhile, Legal and General Investment Management – the UK’s largest fund manager with £1.3trillion of assets under management – said it was “unlikely” to invest.
Martin Buttle at ShareAction suggests others may follow. “There are a number of investors who are very aware of the issues at Deliveroo and are considering their approach,” he says.
A spokesman for Deliveroo says: “Deliveroo riders have the complete freedom to choose when and where to work and can choose which deliveries to accept and which to reject. 50,000 riders choose to work with Deliveroo, and thousands more people apply to work with us every week.
“Our way of working is designed around what riders tell us matters to them most – flexibility. Riders in the UK are paid for each delivery they choose to complete and earn £13 per hour on average at our busiest times.”
Deliveroo is facing legal challenges in at least five of its main markets over the status of its riders. In the UK, it has been under pressure to justify its business model since a landmark Supreme Court ruling against Uber.
Since the 2008-9 financial crisis, the gig economy has crept into global markets, weakening workers’ rights and tearing up conditions that unions fought for decades to achieve.
We are about to enter even more dystopian times with plans by Amazon, Deliveroo and others for a massive expansion in ‘dark kitchens’ as poorly paid chefs in shipping containers cook our food.
But demands for more benefits and protections for gig workers are growing. The nation’s couriers are key workers who helped us all through the pandemic. Could it be a turning point?
As TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said of our story: “Unions won’t rest until every gig economy worker is treated with dignity and paid fairly”. Neither should we.