A Deliveroo driver holds his delivery box

We ordered some pizzas and asked Deliveroo drivers in London why they’ve been on strike

Yes, we were hungry, so we thought we’d order our lunch using Deliveroo and also find out what the people who work for the company had to say about this week’s strike

If you live in one of the cities in which Deliveroo operate, you can’t miss their couriers speeding through the streets. Just look out for that huge black box on the back of their bike. Oh, and the massive kangaroo.

Well, this week, drivers in London have been striking over a proposed deal that would see their pay change from $9.15 an hour (+ $1.30 per delivery) to $4.40 for each delivery made. You do the math.

Lots of people think this might mean they’ll earn less in the long run, whereas the company says they’re responding to drivers’ requests for work to be more flexible.

Okay, time to order some food and find out what’s going on

We wanted to find out what some of the drivers thought about the situation, so decided to hit the Deliveroo app and get ordering. Oh, by the way, we promise this wasn’t an excuse to stuff our faces (well perhaps only a little bit).


Hassan*, our first driver, explained the basic problem with the new deal: “They want to pay $4.40 every order. They don’t want to pay $9.15 an hour. But if I waited here 10 hours and did one delivery, I go home with just three pounds (around four dollars). I can’t live on that.”

The problem is that the pay-per-delivery method might work for peak times when there are lots of jobs on offer, but what about the downtimes, when no one’s really ordering food? It could mean a real reduction in wages and puts extra emphasis on drivers getting from one job to the next. Fast.

Actually, even with the other option, the current $9.15 hourly rate is still below the UK’s National Living Wage, and way below the ‘London Living Wage’ which is currently $12.30. Of course, the less they have to spend on staff, the more profit the company can make.

“Deliveroo… they make loads of money, big money,” said Hassan, “I started working two years ago. When I entered this company there were 60 drivers, just in London, now there are thousands… and they deliver in loads of countries: Hong Kong, Italy, Spain, Australia, France…”

It’s true, Deliveroo are expected to make around $170m this year, as online food deliveries in the UK have risen to 40% of all orders. And they’ve also expanded into many different countries as the grows around the world.

But what’s it like to work for the company?

Adam*, who kindly delivered our very tasty pizza, said he loved his job: “I find it fun. I enjoy cycling round London, and one of the reasons I’m doing it is because I enjoy it so much.”

Sometimes though, he felt like the job wasn’t very well respected: “I think people look down on you sometimes, when you’re cycling about. It doesn’t bother me, but I can imagine it would some people. I’ve heard of people being spat at.”

So would he prefer the new pay deal? “Well, I’ve worked it out and I’d make more money per delivery I think. My view on why people are arguing is because they like the security, but some are a bit lazy. I guess they have a more relaxed attitude. I keep myself people busy. But I’d earn more with the new contract.”

I find it fun. I enjoy cycling round London, and one of the reasons I’m doing it is because I enjoy it so much.

That said, asked if he’d welcome the new arrangement, he replied: “Actually, no. I’d earn more money but I wouldn’t welcome it because it would be much more stressful. Because you’d have to do it. It would just add another element of stress, which isn't needed. Especially on the streets - you’ve got so much on your mind. I was thinking about it yesterday - doing this job, it’s a life or death thing. You have to be on the ball all the time. You can’t lose concentration for a second.”

And that’s part of the issue. Because people who work for Deliveroo are what’s called ‘independent contractors’, meaning they’re technically self employed, so the company doesn’t have to offer them things like sick pay in case riders fall off their bike and can’t work, or holiday pay and other benefits you get as a full-time employee.

A Deliveroo driver holds his delivery bag

But are less benefits worth it for greater flexibility?

This way of working is becoming more and more common, as companies like Uber and Deliveroo sign up people prepared to trade the regular income and hours you get in standard employment for greater flexibility, so that it can fit around other stuff in their lives, or help provide a bit of extra money on the side.

Adam wasn’t convinced by this argument: “I wouldn’t say it fits in. It’s quite an antisocial job. You often work really late. You’re so tired, it’s difficult to fit in anything else. Although it can work if you make it work.”

So, maybe it’s not as simple as it sounds. The convenience can become an issue if the conditions aren’t good, as Adam says, or if there’s suddenly loads of competition (too many drivers, not enough jobs) or the role fails to pay an adequate wage, which is what this week’s strike has been all about.

Deliveroo riders make wage demands during a protest outside the company offices in Torrington Place, Fitzrovia, London.
Image: © Jonathan Brady / PA Wire/Press Association Images

What did Hassan and Adam make of the strike?

Hassan did join the strike. He told us: “Yes, I did join in. But I didn’t go into the actual meeting with managers, because they might recognize me, and I’d lose my job.”

Adam took a different approach: “I didn’t participate. I thought if everyone’s going on strike there’d be more hours, so I’m just gonna make the most of it while it’s here and earn a bit of extra money.”

But what can we as the public do, if we support the workers’ right to strike for fairer pay? It’s tricky. If we decide to boycott the company and not order, then there’s just gonna be less orders for drivers to pick up. We asked Adam about this, but he didn’t seem too bothered: “I wouldn’t mind too much. I still think there’d be work and money to be made, even if some people stopped using us.”

*The names of our drivers have been changed

Recent articles

Reader Comments