Couriers prepare strike against pay cut

Submitted by AWL on 30 November, 2021 - 10:44 Author: Michael Elms
Sheffield protest

On Sunday 28 November Sheffield’s JustEat couriers — who are employed by the gig-economy contractor Stuart — held a demonstration through central Sheffield against an impending pay cut. They were supported by the city’s Trades Council, labour movement and left. They are members of the IWGB union and have been organising in the city for two years with the help of members and friends of Workers’ Liberty, who were also central to organising this demonstration.

Olivia Blake, MP for Sheffield Hallam spoke on their platform, as did representatives of GMB health workers, Unite and UCU members at Sheffield’s two universities, PCS members working in the DWP, and the Green Party. Messages of support were also sent to the demonstration by Louise Haigh MP for Sheffield Heeley and Paul Blomfield MP for Sheffield Central.

Union members delivered speeches and chanted slogans in English, Kiswahili, Arabic and Oromo. A member of the Student Solidarity Group spoke on behalf of students, to express solidarity and denounce the slack response of the Students’ Union at University of Sheffield to this and the UCU strike. Banners from various union branches and Constituency Labour Parties followed the demo.

“Sheffield are the real trend-setters!” was how couriers’ chair Parirs summed up the dynamics of the JustEat/Stuart pay dispute. The company is planning to roll out a 24% cut to the per-delivery base rate for drivers, which will oblige them to drive further and faster to earn the same money.

While the cut was rolled out in many cities in October, the company held off implementing it in Sheffield because of the drivers’ militancy. The Sheffield drivers hope that their strike action from 6 December will spark strikes in other cities, and they are making plans to spread the action out. The superior organisation of drivers in Sheffield means that they are the leaders of the entire national movement of delivery couriers.

This is due to the tenacity and verve of the couriers’ own leaders; and due to the consistent work of agitation carried out among this workforce by Workers’ Liberty activists in co-operation with the IWGB union.

A eulogy was also delivered at the rally for Ethan Bradley. Ethan, the national chair of the IWGB Couriers and Logistics Branch, passed away at a tragically young age in the week prior to the strike. Ethan’s comrade Fran Scaife, IWGB Welfare Officer, praised Ethan’s rebel spirit and dedication as a union activist.

Sheffield’s Stuart/JustEat drivers are now preparing for a strike from 6 December. Labour movement activists in Sheffield will be helping the drivers on picket lines. Nationally the most important help these drivers need is financial.

• Please donate to the strike fund here

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