Wednesday 25 May: Food delivery couriers from the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) and other community groups will protest outside Hackney Town hall today at 6:15PM over the harassment of BAME couriers picking up orders at Ashwin Street by police and civil enforcement. Couriers in the area report a sudden spike in the issuing of anti-social behaviour (ASB) notices on Ashwin Street since April, when loading bay times were extended.
Today’s protest follows two recent immigration raids targeting majority-BAME couriers in the area, under the guise of routine vehicle checks. At the most recent raid, which took place on Saturday 14 May, hundreds of Dalston locals gathered to support couriers. Police quickly became violent, and both this raid and an earlier raid in January have been condemned by Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville.
Couriers launched a campaign last year in Dalston for a legal, safe and free space to wait for orders in the area, after the council forced couriers to move away from Ashwin St to Bentley Rd, where couriers receive fewer orders and lack shelter or toilet access. Following a recent action, nearby Wingstop restaurant has guaranteed couriers toilet access and put in a planning application for its own waiting area.
Across the UK, food delivery apps such as Deliveroo and UberEats employ tens of thousands of couriers but do not provide adequate rider support or facilitate proper access to restaurants; apps fail to liaise with restaurants and local authorities to ensure that couriers have a legal and safe place to wait for and pick up orders. Although couriers themselves are highly vulnerable to vehicle theft and street harassment - with 2 in 3 having been assaulted at work - the lack of adequate waiting areas forces this low-paid and majority-BAME workforce into constant contact with law enforcement.
At today’s protest, couriers will meet at Ashwin St at 5:30PM and then ride to Hackney Town Hall for 6:15. Couriers are demanding police stop targeting them for immigration raids under the guise of routine vehicle checks, and that the council stop the excessive issuing of ASB notices to couriers.
Maria*, Courier, says: “I am afraid to go to work because I am treated like a criminal. When we are victims of crime, such as vehicle theft or workplace violence, the police ignore us. But when we are trying to earn an honest living, we are harassed just for picking up orders and doing our jobs. It is very scary seeing the recent police violence towards riders and members of the public standing up for our rights. As key workers, we need the police to protect us, not to victimise us.”
Mike, Courier, says: “We are protesting because it is unfair that the police come all the time to bully us and harass us when we are simply trying to do our jobs. Just today, three officers came to me in Ashwin Street and asked me where I was parked, forcing me to move to Bentley Road car park. I told them we can't go there because we can't get orders and won’t be able to earn a living there, but he said he doesn't care and told us we have to move.”
Alex Marshall, President (IWGB), says: “For gig-economy couriers, the streets is their place of work. Like everybody else, couriers deserve dignity, respect, and safety in their workplace. Apps like Deliveroo and UberEats have completely failed to facilitate access to restaurants for couriers, denying them the adequate support and parking solutions this majority-BAME workforce needs to work safely. Because of this, couriers who worked tirelessly through the pandemic providing a vital service for our community, and who may be paid as little as £2/hr, are subject to constant harassment by law enforcement simply for doing their jobs. The gig economy is growing and we can only expect to see this issue become increasingly prevalent across the country. The mass solidarity we saw in Dalston shows that the community supports our couriers. We cannot stand idly by and allow our couriers to be treated like criminals, rather than the key workers that they are.”
*The name of this person has been changed to protect anonymity.
Interviews with anonymous couriers are available upon request. Photo by Steve Eason.
For more information, please contact:
James Vail, Head of Communications