Photographer: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Uber’s Food-Delivery Drivers in London Plan Strike on Pay

  • Hundreds of union-backed drivers plan action for Aug. 26
  • Low pay, lack of employment status among the complaints

Drivers for Uber’s food-delivery service in London are threatening to strike this week if wages aren’t increased -- a sign workers toiling for on-demand apps in the city are emboldened after a rival take-out service made concessions following a protest earlier this month. 

Hundreds of UberEats drivers plan to strike starting on Aug. 26, according to the United Voices of the World Union, which has been helping organize the food-delivery workers. The drivers will be striking over poor pay and not being classified as employees, the union said on its Facebook page.

Uber and other on-demand companies rely on independent workers to provide rides, deliver food, perform fix-it jobs and other services. The workers aren’t classified as employees, freeing the companies from paying health care and other benefits.

The company-contractor relationship has become increasingly fraught. Drivers for London’s popular take-out delivery service Deliveroo held a strike for several days this month to protest a change in how they were compensated, from an hourly wage to one paid per delivery. With the couriers protesting loudly outside Deliveroo’s headquarters, the company caved and said they could choose to be paid hourly.

Now the workers are turning their attention to Uber. “Big things are happening people,” the union said on its page. “The times are changing. Wake up, keep up and get involved.” The workers are still formulating their demands, according to Mags Dewhurst, a union organizer.

The San Francisco-based company introduced its food-delivery business in June. Drivers pick up food from local restaurants and deliver it customers ordering from their smartphones.

“We’re committed to being the best option for couriers in London,” Alex Czarnecki, general manager for UberEats in London, said in a statement. “As UberEats grows, couriers are busier than ever. In fact, so far this week couriers delivering lunch and dinner have made over 10 percent more an hour than they did in the same period last week. Our office is open and our team is always available to chat to couriers.”

The potential strike is among several challenges Uber is experiencing in London. Last week, the ride-hailing company sued the city’s transportation regulator to block rules that would require drivers from non-English speaking countries to pass a language exam. The measures would also force Uber to notify Transport for London of any changes made to its mobile app.

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