Deliveroo riders staged strike action on Wednesday on the first day that ordinary investors could buy and sell the company’s shares on the stock market.
The share price gained 2.5 per cent to £2.88 on the first morning of open trading following Deliveroo’s initial public offering (IPO) but remained well below the £3.90 float price set last week.
The company flopped last week in what has been labelled London’s worst ever stock market debut. Deliveroo’s valuation remains £3bn down on the top-end price being targeted just 10 days ago.
Investors, including some of the UK's largest pension fund managers, shunned the share sale over concerns about workers' rights and a structure that allowed founder Will Shu to keep control.
Around 400 riders switched off the app on Wednesday to pressure Deliveroo to grant them basic workers’ rights, according to the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB).
The IWGB is calling for holiday pay, sick pay, a guaranteed living wage and an end to unpaid waiting times. The union also wants Deliveroo to allow riders to bargain collectively over pay and working conditions.
Socially distanced protests are planned in London, York, Sheffield, Reading and Wolverhampton.
The industrial action comes after research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found riders earned as little as £2 an hour. Deliveroo maintains that riders like the flexibility of working as contractors and that they earn well above the minimum wage.
Greg Howard, Deliveroo rider and chair of IWGB's couriers & logistics branch, said: “I’m going on strike for my basic rights and those of all the other riders struggling to get by and support families on Deliveroo poverty pay.
“I’ve seen conditions decline for years and then working through lockdown I contracted Covid-19 and got very little support from Deliveroo.”
Deliveroo’s main competitor Just Eat has declared its intention to abandon the gig economy model reliant on self-employed contractors. Around 2,000 Just Eat riders have already been reclassified as employees with benefits including holiday and sick pay.
The Supreme Court ruled in February that Uber drivers were workers, not independent contractors – a decision that is expected to have ramifications for other companies operating a similar model.
Alex Marshall, President (IWGB) and former bicycle courier, said: “Deliveroo presents a false choice between flexibility and basic rights but the Uber ruling showed that here as well as abroad, workers can have both. That is the least they deserve and what the public expects for our frontline workers.
He said that riders have “triggered a domino effect which already slashed £3bn from Deliveroo’s valuation and that should give pause to any corporation that thinks precarious workers can be endlessly exploited without consequence”.
A Deliveroo spokesperson said: “This small, self-appointed union does not represent the vast majority of riders who tell us they value the total flexibility they enjoy while working with Deliveroo alongside the ability to earn over £13 an hour.
“Only yesterday we ran a survey and 89 per cent of riders said that they were happy with the company and flexibility was their priority."
Deliveroo said it had polled 8,500 riders.