Deliveroo drivers hold protest in London over possible changes to the way they are paid

Just days after Deliveroo, a popular on-demand restaurant food delivery startup in Europe, announced that it had raised another $275 million in funding, a number of the startup’s self-employed couriers in London have been holding a protest over possible changes to the way they are paid.

It’s being reported that after trialling a new payment model, which Deliveroo claims has been a success, the company will begin paying riders a fixed fee per deliver of £3.75 rather than the current hourly rate of £7 per hour plus £1 per delivery. This has left some of Deliveroo’s couriers unhappy enough to hold something akin to a strike.

That’s interesting, given that the so-called “gig economy” is one that is almost impossible to unionize in the traditional sense, because workers are typically self-employed and don’t have the shop floor to organize on. It’s also unclear how an autonomous group of freelance couriers would operate collective bargaining.

Regardless of the mechanism, Deliveroo says it’s always open to riders’ concerns and continues to listen to its contracted workforce. The London-based startup provided TechCrunch with the following comment:

We started trialling a new payment model in London this week, which was designed to enhance flexibility and based on extensive rider feedback. Speaking with our riders and hearing their concerns on the new model is our top priority right now. We’re committed to an open conversation with our rider community as the situation evolves, so we can continue to improve our payment model and delivery experience.

Deliveroo is also adamant that under the per-delivery payment model, couriers will still typically be able to earn over £10 during lunch and dinner times, which is when the service sees the most demand. “The 2.2km size of each delivery zone has been designed with delivery distance and time in mind. Following extensive testing, this zone size was found to be the optimum size to ensure that riders could complete 2-3 orders an hour safely,” a Deliveroo spokesperson tells me.

Those protesting make the point, however, that since they are freelance they have to swallow other costs such as bike maintenance and things like tax and insurance, meaning take-home pay is a lot less. It’s a story familiar right across the gig economy, such as at companies like Uber, and not peculiar to Deliveroo’s model.

Meanwhile, it is also worth pointing out that Deliveroo has 3,000 riders in London, and those protesting were only a small group by comparison. Whether or not that remains the case over the next few days and weeks remains to be seen.