Couriers’ strike threat forces u-turn

Submitted by AWL on 26 October, 2021 - 11:49 Author: Michael Elms
IWGB Sheffield

In Sheffield, with the help of Workers’ Liberty activists and supporters, food couriers working for JustEat delivery partner Stuart have been organising in the IWGB union in two fights: over job security and pay. On Friday 22 October, the threat of strike action forced Stuart into a U-turn over a planned pay cut.

In August, JustEat’s CEO Jitse Groen wrote to Sheffield MP Paul Blomfield to say that JustEat would move its delivery operation over from Stuart to Scoober in the first half of 2022. Where this has been done in other cities, the existing Stuart delivery fleet has not been transferred over to Scoober, or even given priority in applying for the new jobs: it has simply been scrapped. Moreover, where Scoober has taken over delivery operations, drivers have been obliged to switch from cars to electric bicycles. That means harder work, more danger from crime and more risk of death by road collision.

Stuart drivers, organised in the IWGB, organised a community campaign against this mass sacking, getting the support of Sheffield’s MPs and Labour Party members, as well as many students, who organised a doorknocking campaign in support of the drivers’ petition campaign.

In October, JustEat wrote to the IWGB union stating that they now had “no current plans” to move to Scoober.

Also in October, Stuart announced that it would be rolling out a new pay structure – in fact, a large pay cut. Base pay per delivery would fall from £4.50 to £3.40. Drivers in Sheffield organised a large meeting to oppose this, and organised a plan for an ambitious programme of strikes, with passionate and detailed discussions of previous strike strategies and lessons for the future. Sheffield drivers attended a Zoom-based “information session” held by Stuart to sell the new pay structure to workers. The Sheffield couriers denounced the pay cut and informed participants of Sheffield drivers’ united opposition and strike plans.

The following day Stuart wrote to Sheffield couriers announcing that the pay cut would be postponed in Sheffield only. The strike too was postponed as a result. Leading drivers met on Monday 25 October to lay a new plan to press their advantage and involve couriers in other cities in a united campaign for pay justice.

The two-year organising drive among mostly-migrant food couriers in Sheffield, which was initiated and has been sustained by Workers’ Liberty activists, is bearing fruit elsewhere too: drivers who have moved from the food delivery job to other logistics firms in the city are beginning to discuss fresh organising projects on their new jobs.

Workers’ Liberty will continue to assist these workers in their fight to civilise a lawless industry, and calls upon socialists in other cities to begin talking to couriers about organising.

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