Just Eat strike: ‘exploited’ drivers to blockade McDonalds over wage cuts

Just Eat couriers organised a demonstration outside Sheffield Town Hall today (November 28) and announced plans to strike and blockade food chains in December.

Sunday, 28th November 2021, 2:28 pm

Couriers employed by Stuart Delivery – which handles deliveries for Just Eat in England – took part in a motorcade through the city centre before they rallied outside the town hall along with supporters including Sheffield Hallam MP Olivia Blake.

They are protesting a wage cut that is set to come into force on December 6, which will see the minimum delivery fee for journeys below 0.5 miles drop from £4.50 to £3.40.

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Sheffield Just Eat drivers to protest and strike over pay cuts

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Protesters at the Just Eat courier protest at the Town Hall.

Coinciding with the pay cut, the couriers will be striking from December 6, and today they announced plans to blockade all McDonalds outlets in Sheffield from that date.

They will then expand their picket lines to block more food companies that use Stuart Delivery in the weeks that follow until their demands are met.

Speaking at the rally, which was organised by independent workers’ union IWGB, wSheffield Trade Union Council secretary Martin Meyer said: “These are the worst employed people in our city and they are facing a pay cut from Stuart Delivery. We cannot stand by and let this happen.

“We have to stand by these drivers and help them win.

Just Eat courier Bryn Atkinson-Woodcock addresses the protest.

“These are drivers who, through all weathers, have been delivering food to our homes during the pandemic and lockdowns.

"They have face the threat of infection and many indeed did catch Covid.

“They are paid by the delivery – they don’t get paid for waiting time, they don’t get paid if they’re held up, they don’t get any sick pay, they don’t get any holiday pay.

"They are not even treated as proper workers. They are bogus self employed, on piece rates, determined by an app by the company they are engaged to work for.

Protesters outside the Town Hall today.

“It’s a disgrace that people are working like this. I call this old fashion, Victorian employment. It is exploitation.”

Organisers of the strike say they are calling for no pay cuts, a minimum of £6 plus mileage per delivery, £15 per hour payment for waiting times after 10 minutes and a recruitment freeze.

Olivia Blake MP expressed her support for the strikers, and highlighted the rising costs delivery couriers face as they are told they will be having their pay cut, including petrol, the cost of living, insurance and maintenance of vehicles.

And she said: “These drivers have been through the worst of it. They are getting a pay cut when it should be a pay rise. It is that simple.

Olivia Blake addresses the protest.

"Let’s not forget the last two years of hard work that has been put in by frontline workers like these.

"Stuart and Just Eat need to come to the table and show they support their workforce.

"And it is so important that people across the city show solidarity in this fight. We need to make sure people know about this issue and fight agaonst these changes.”

Abbie Clark, of the Public and Commercial Services Union added: “How quickly people have quickly forgotten the phrase key worker, and how quickly these people are now punishing them. We need to come together to stop this.”

And in attendance at the rally, representing his fellow food couriers, was Sheffield-based Bryn Atkinson-Woodcock.

He explained the reality of the situation drivers are in. He told the crowd that food couriers often make just £400 from working seven days a week, doing 10-12 hour shifts, due to the fact they spend so much on fuel, maintenance and don’t get paid for time spent waiting.

Martin Meyer at the protest.

He said: “The reason we are out today is because we are being exploited in the shadows. The adverts say self employed couriers get £15-20 per hour but it is advertised as one thing and the reality is another.

“We often work for far below minimum wage. There is a reason there are barely any British drivers doing this.

"That is why I am here: to shed light on the fact that a lot of drivers are first or second generation immigrants who tell me they are just happy to have a job.

"But why is the Government allowing these companied to make millions out of this attitude?

"It would be one thing if these companies were struggling, but we know Stuart made millions last year, and we know their parent company made £800 million in profit last year.

"During the pandemic we were working non-stop. We risked our lives, did not see our families, and many got Covid, and now we are facing a pay cut as well.

"Should this not be a pay rise at a time where the cost of living is going up? It’s disgraceful.”

Mr Atkinson-Woodcock also said that rather than supporting its staff, Stuart and Just Eat is actually making things harder.

"They are automating things more and more and it is dehumanising,” he said. “When we are in a crisis they have workers who cannot write English well and they are having to communicate with a robot. If you are lucky enough to get through to somebody online they don’t even read our messages asking for help.

"We get spoken to terribly. It is exploitation. I have never seen a clearer cut case of a company treating employees like worker ants.

"They say on their website they employ 25,000 people but these are mainly people who previously worked for takeaways or restaurants that are now working for Just Eat.

"So they are taking 25,000 workers out of the economy. It is bad for the economy and it is bad for our mental health. It has to stop.”

Stuart Delivery is part of the DPD Group.

A DPD spokesperson explained that any delivery up to 0.5 miles will result in a £3.40 payment, and additional payments are added on for longer journeys.

They said that 96 per cent of deliveries in Sheffield are above 0.5 miles, so most drivers and riders would not see a change in their fee.