One of the fears about workers in very precarious casual jobs, with a large proportion of immigrants among them, is that they will not be able to struggle, and so will be nothing but a competitive pressure to lower wages. Firms such as Uber and Deliveroo like to claim their workers are self-employed (so not getting minimum wage, holiday or sick leave). The recent strike at Deliveroo, which spread to UberEats drivers, has answered both questions. They are most definitely part of the working class, and most definitely able to struggle to defend themselves.
Threatened with a new contract that would change from hourly pay plus a bonus for each delivery (£7 and £1) with pay only for each delivery, despite their apparent isolation from each other and their precarious circumstances, Deliveroo delivery workers organised meetings to run their struggle, a protest moped and cycle ride through the streets in London, and a 6 day strike. They insisted on collective negotiation against the managing director’s ‘offer’ to speak to them individually. In the end the threat that they would lose their jobs if they did not sign up to the new contract was withdrawn, but it is being trialled by those who opt in. A partial victory.
Some UberEats delivery workers came to Deliveroo meetings. They face similar conditions, being falsely given self-employed status; pay has fallen so they barely make the minimum wage, with no guaranteed pay, only getting £3.30 per delivery. After a wildcat strike one worker was sacked (or “deactivated” since he is not protected by employment law), underlining the courage needed by workers who struggle in such precarious industries.
These small strikes by workers in such difficult circumstances demonstrate that they are fully part of the working class and its struggle.
. See the video of this event at https://libcom.org/news/deliveroo-drivers-wildcat-strike-12082016