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The independent London newspaper

Delivery riders go on strike after ‘road rage’ killing

Death of 30-year-old sparks industrial action as convoy of workers take concerns over safety and ‘slave wages’ to company’s City HQ

17 January, 2020 — By Sam Ferguson

The delivery workers ride in convoy to Deliveroo’s headquarters in the City

TAKEAWAY delivery drivers have gone on strike in protest at their working conditions in the wake of the “road rage” murder of a rider in Finsbury Park.

Dozens of Deliveroo and Uber Eats riders parked their mopeds and motorbikes outside KFC in St Paul’s Road, off Highbury Corner, on Wednesday.

They told how they felt in danger while out on the job and said they were risking their safety for “slave wages”.

Some also accuse the police of “targeting” them with increased document checks over the two weeks since Algerian delivery rider Taki Eddine Boudhane was killed – a claim officers deny.

Thirty-year-old Mr Boudhane’s death on January 3 has thrown the spotlight on how safe riders are when they are delivering people’s takeaway orders each night.

On the picket line, riders handed out leaflets and pictures of him to passers-by.

And last night (Thursday), after two days of strike action, around 80 riders rode in a convoy to Deliveroo headquarters in the City. They claim somebody had tipped off the company of their imminent arrival, as the building had been vacated for the evening.

The riders then travelled in circuits of the City, raising awareness of their concerns and the death of their colleague.

Striking riders prepare to set off from Highbury Corner

They are expected to return to work today (Friday) but the possibility of further strike action has already been discussed.

Each rider on the picket line who spoke to the Tribune had stories of attacks, threats, and vehicle and food thefts. They claimed there is a lack of support and understanding from both Deliveroo and Uber Eats.

Many riders asked us not to publish their full names or pictures, for fear of being “deleted” from Deliveroo and Uber Eats apps, which would deny them work.

One, who wanted to be known as Samir, said his Deliveroo account had been closed before.

“It’s not like a real job,” he added. “If they decide you have done something wrong then they can just close your account.”

Elias, who also asked for his surname to be kept secret, said: “When I started, I was told I was self-employed, but after starting work, I know now that I am slave employed. When they don’t need you, they close your account. They don’t care about your life or your family.”

Another rider said: “When you pick up an order and deliver it to a customer, it can happen that they don’t answer.

“You have to ring the customer three times, then send a notification by the app and wait for seven minutes. Then you have to say you were unable to deliver. But then Uber will punish you. Sometimes they cut it from your payslip.”

Protest message on one of the rider’s windshields

Deliveroo has denied closing rider accounts, except in cases where the supply agreement has been breached – for instance if a rider is convicted of a criminal offence.

Uber Eats did not respond directly to claims by riders of accounts being closed.

Gaaza Hamama, who has worked for Deliveroo and Uber Eats since 2015, said he was happy to be identified because he fears he will lose his life if changes are not made to protect delivery riders while they are working.

“Safety is a big issue,” he told the Tribune. “We just don’t feel safe in London any more. When I get home, I take a shower and I feel like I’ve survived another day.”

Another rider said he was terrified of knife crime, and had not worked since Mr Boudhane’s death.

“This was not a road rage incident, it was knife crime,” he added.

“We’re here to get justice for Taki and to make sure it doesn’t happen again to one of us.”

Riders also told the Tribune they worked up to 90 hours a week to make enough money to support themselves and their families – with many sending money home to Algeria.

Food and vehicle insurance are mandatory to work for both Deliveroo and Uber Eats, but this can set riders back up to £150 a month, further eating into their earnings.

“I get £2.80 a delivery,” said Mr Hamama. “We don’t get any help for petrol or help to fix the bikes. I work like a slave for 90 hours a week to pay the rent and sleep – that’s it.

“It affects my health, being on my bike for 10 or 12 hours a shift.”

Adam Boukechoueou, who said he had worked for both Uber Eats and Deliveroo for five years, said: “I can’t make money because we get sent on long deliveries.

“Sometimes it can take 40 minutes to get somewhere, and you get under £4. But then you have to come back, too. I work 10 hours a night, every night, to take home just enough to survive.”

The riders were joined at the picket line yesterday (Thursday) by representatives from the Independent Workers of Great Britain union (IWGB).

Alex Marshall, chair of the IWGB Couriers and Logistics branch, said: “We fully support the strike by north London Deliveroo drivers and the issues they raise around safety, exploitation and working conditions are also at the heart of our campaign work.

Takieddine Boudhane

Taki Boudhane

“Hundreds of people are putting their lives at risk every day to deliver things to our front doors. Companies sit back and get rich while riders are subjected to all sorts of dangers as they chase enough poverty pay to just survive. They have our full solidarity.”

Police denied claims by delivery riders that they are being targeted with increased spot-checks.

A Met spokesman said: “The local policing team are listening to the concerns of those employed as food couriers and working on how to best respond to their wider concerns. Neighbourhood officers are working closely with Islington Council and food delivery companies, looking at how best to safeguard food couriers by utilising technology such as body-worn video, geo-tracking and other IT-based solutions.”

Islington’s borough commander, Chief Superintendent Raj Kohli, said: “I have asked officers to be visible and active in the area to reassure the local community, and this includes delivery drivers, who understandably will be incredibly saddened and concerned that the victim was a friend and colleague.”

 

He added: “The team leading the investigation believes that the murder took place following a spontaneous traffic altercation, and that it was not connected to, or as a result of, anything other than this.”

Mr Boudhane’s suspected killer is thought to have fled to Austria.

When asked about the striking riders’ concerns, Deliveroo said in a statement: “Deliveroo takes rider safety and security extremely seriously.

“Deliveroo engages with riders constantly and will be seeking to meet those in the area that have concerns. We are committed to supporting all of our riders.

“The death of Taki Boudhane was a tragedy. We have offered our condolences to his family and friends and remain in contact. We will continue to offer our support.”

It added: “All Deliveroo riders are automatically insured when out on the road, protecting them in the case of an accident or assault. We have a dedicated rider team in place to assist our riders following an accident and support with any safety concerns. We will be rolling out new features in the coming weeks.”

And Uber Eats said: “This was a horrific attack on a courier in London and there is no place for this kind of senseless violence.

“There is nothing more important than the safety of couriers who use the Uber Eats app. When it comes to safety, our work is never done and we will keep listening, learning and improving.”

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