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Deliveroo accused of ‘cynical PR move’ with union deal for couriers

Deliveroo has been accused of “seeking endorsement for exploitative practices” after signing a deal with the GMB union that does not ensure its couriers will be paid the legal minimum wage throughout their whole working day.

The takeaway group has pledged to pay its 90,000 riders at least the minimum wage after costs but only while delivering an order, under the deal which recognises them as “self-employed”.

However, they are not paid while checked into the app and waiting for an order, meaning their overall earnings per hour for the time they have set aside for work can fall below the legal minimum level.

Alex Marshall, the head of the IWGB union which has been fighting for improved rights for the couriers, said the new deal did not change Deliveroo’s current practices. Classifying riders as self-employed independent contractors means they are not legally entitled to sick pay, holiday pay or the minimum wage.

The union, which is seeking to go to the supreme court to challenge a ruling that Deliveroo’s riders are self-employed, described the deal with the GMB as a “hollow and cynical PR move”.

Marshall said the timing of the deal, before Deliveroo’s annual shareholder meeting on 20 May, was a “desperate attempt to go to the meeting and say, ‘Look how great we are doing’ when this company is as rotten as ever”.

The GMB union said the deal gave Deliveroo’s couriers the right to collective bargaining on pay and consultation rights on benefits and other issues including health and safety.

The union will also be able to represent individual riders who are GMB members in disputes, which it said would give them a “stronger voice”.

Mick Rix, national officer at the GMB, said the deal was “a blueprint for those working in the platform self-employed sector”, adding: “Tens of thousands of riders for one of the world’s largest online food delivery services will now be covered by a collective agreement that gives them a voice – including pay talks, guaranteed earnings and representation in times of difficulty.”

Will Shu, the founder and chief executive of Deliveroo, said the deal offered couriers “flexibility, guaranteed earnings, representation and benefits”.

He added: “Deliveroo has long called for riders to have both flexibility and security and this innovative agreement is exactly the sort of partnership the on-demand economy should be based on.”

He said the company was among the first in the gig economy to offer riders free insurance, which covers periods of illness and support for new parents.

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