No love lost: why Deliveroo & Uber Eats drivers are on Valentine’s Day strike

It's bad news for stay-in diners this Wednesday, as an alliance of delivery drivers protests over their pay conditions

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Written and reviewed by:
Richard Parris - managing editor of Startups.co.uk

Those wanting a romantic meal at home without the washing up are in for some bad news this Valentine’s Day. That’s because drivers for both Uber Eats and Deliveroo will be striking in protest at their pay and working conditions.

The strikes have been organised by the grassroots group, Delivery Job UK, which claims as many as 3,000 drivers could strike in solidarity.

As well as affecting services for Deliveroo and Uber Eats, drivers for Just Eat and Stuart.com are also joining in the protest this Wednesday, which is due to take place between 17:00 and 22:00.

Why are Deliveroo and Uber Eats drivers striking?

At its core, the strike is happening due to the ongoing disagreement over how drivers for these services are classified, and the pay and benefits they receive as a result.

Drivers using app-based services such as Deliveroo are considered to be self-employed contractors in the UK. It’s a particularly contentious ruling, which was confirmed by the supreme court in November last year.

As a result of this classification, companies like Uber Eats or Just Eat aren’t obliged to pay their drivers the national living wage, which is due to rise from £10.42 per hour to £11.44.

“Our request is simple: we want fair compensation for the work we do,” Delivery Job UK commented on its Instagram page. “We are tired of being exploited and risking our lives every day… It's time for our voices to be heard.”

The Instagram statement was given in Portuguese, reflecting the high number of Brazilian drivers responsible for delivering food across London in particular. Deliveroo, a former Startups 100 alumni, has seen an astronomical growth in its services since the pandemic hit. However, the working culture and pay for drivers delivering for takeaway businesses such as Deliveroo has come under increased scrutiny in recent years.

Food delivery apps aren’t the only businesses causing controversy with their refusal to meet the new national living wage. Just last month, James Watt, CEO of Brewdog, argued that the brewer was simply unable to afford the upcoming rise in the Real Living Wage (RLW).

Small business impact of drivers strike

It’s already looking to be a lean year ahead for the restaurant and hospitality sector, and the traditional romantic Valentine’s Day meal spend may suffer in kind.

A KPMG study from last year found that half of UK consumers intended to cut back on non-essential spending. Our own data found that even at the earliest stages of the cost of living crisis, eating out was cited by consumers as the top area of spending they’d be cutting back on.

With no waiter to tip, no transport costs to factor in, and no marked-up bottle of wine to purchase, many romantically-minded consumers might have been looking forward to planning a dine-in Deliveroo special this Valentine’s Day. As well as impacting diners’ plans, the strike means yet another revenue lifeline for struggling smaller restaurants is now impacted.

It’s not just takeaway drivers who are likely to be disappointed with their pay this year. Exclusive research from Startups.co.uk has found that the hospitality sector is the least likely to be able to meet pay expectations for its own employees.

Numerous restaurants are closing amid a high cost of goods sold, a tough hiring environment, challenging business rents and high energy costs. The drivers’ strike is yet more bad news for the UK hospitality industry, even as it sees hard working contractors fighting for a fair wage.

Written by:
Richard Parris - managing editor of Startups.co.uk
Richard joined the Startups team in 2021, and has a career in publishing that has spanned over 15 years. As a researcher, writer and editor, Richard has worked on brands across the UK, US and Asia in both print and online, including at the BBC, on the US-focused tech industry site Tech.co, plus at Which? magazine and its website, where Richard oversaw technology reviews and advice publishing. Richard has been an interviewee and contributor on television, radio, newspaper, magazine and online publications, and has featured in interviews including on the BBC and The Scotsman. Richard is passionate about converting potentially complex topics into clear, actionable advice and recommendations, and works alongside the in-house Startups team and its growing network to promote the needs of the UK small business community.

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