Longest gig-economy strike escalates as Sheffield couriers blockade McDonald’s

Mon, Jan 31, 2022, 9:12 AM
  • On Sunday 30 January, the longest gig-economy strike entered a new stage in Sheffield as couriers working for fast-food giant JustEat blockaded the Archer Road McDonald’s.
  • Strike action began on 6 December 2021 after subcontractor Stuart Delivery, a DPD Group firm part of the publicly-owned La Poste, cut the minimum delivery rate by 24%.
  • Yesterday’s action follows a motion in parliament in support of the campaign, signed by 9 MPs.
  • Over 1200 letters have been written by members of the public, over £18000 has been donated to the strike fund, and several local businesses have spoken out in Sheffield.

Mon 31 January: Yesterday, striking food delivery couriers, employed by the JustEat subcontractor Stuart Delivery, demonstrated outside of the Sheffield Archer Road McDonald’s. 60 drivers and supporters, joined by Paul Blomfield MP, blockaded the entrance to the McDonald’s, shutting down all orders for 45 minutes. Speeches were given by drivers and local business owners who came out to support the action.

Couriers began strike action on 6 December 2021, after Stuart Delivery cut the minimum delivery pay by 24%, from £4.50 to £3.40, following a gradual decline in pay and conditions. Couriers have been declining orders from McDonald’s between 5-8PM every evening for 40 days, and have recently started targeting Greggs and other restaurants. Strike action has also taken place in Sunderland, Chesterfield, Blackpool, and Huddersfield.

The strike, which has drawn support from 1000s of members of the public, local businesses and MPs, has already won two of its demands: paid waiting times and a resolution to an insurance issue that was resulting in wrongful terminations. Couriers are still calling on Stuart Delivery to reverse the pay cut and to implement a hiring freeze in Sheffield.

Despite undertaking high-risk key work through the pandemic, Stuart couriers live on poverty pay and are forced to pay their vehicle costs and fuel out of their own wages. Meanwhile, in 2020, Stuart’s highest earning director received a 1000 percent pay rise over the previous year to over £2 million, as the corporation saw a £20 million increase in turnover during the height of the pandemic.

Raja Khan, Sheffield courier, said: “Stuart needs to listen to drivers. You can’t bring pay down when the cost of living is going up. It isn’t fair. Until they stop attacking the drivers they rely on, we will be forced to create disruption that Stuart and JustEat can’t ignore.”

Alex Marshall, President (IWGB), said: “These workers have been on strike for 40 days now and Stuart Delivery’s response so far has been to either gaslight or ignore their perfectly reasonable requests. This action marks an escalation from the workers as they target clients like McDonalds who are complicit in the exploitation. The workers are more united and determined than ever and will not give up until they reverse the cuts and win the pay rise they deserve.”

Paul Blomfield, MP for Sheffield Central, told striking couriers at a driver’s rally: “You have collectively achieved an amazing feat - the UK's longest continuous gig economy strike, and you should all be proud of the resilience you've shown. You have shown Stuart, and other gig-economy employers that you can, and you will organise through unions to make sure that you get fair pay for a fair day's work. You deserve more than what has been offered to you so far, and I'm proud that it has been Sheffield couriers leading the way. I'll continue to support your strike, and campaign for an end to fragile employment so that all workers receive what they're entitled to.”

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