Woodcock, J. and Cant, C. (2022) 'Platform Worker Organising at Deliveroo in the UK: From Wildcat Strikes to Building Power', Journal of Labor and Society, 25(2), 220-236.
It has been five years since the first strikes of Deliveroo workers in London in 2016. Since then, workers have continued to organise. The campaigns have involved five different aspects: first, wildcat strike action; second, networks and internationalisation; third, union organising with the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB); fourth, legal campaigning; and fifth, wider leverage campaigns. What is less understood so far is the different strengths and weaknesses of these aspects, and how they have contributed to the build of workers’ self-organisation and power at Deliveroo. This article explores the different aspects and considers the effectiveness of each. It concludes by considering what can be learned from these struggles for the understanding of platform work and trade union organising today.
Deliveroo is a food delivery platform that started in London. It is an example of a ‘lean’ platform (Srnicek, 2017), stripping back the activities of the platform in order to minimise costs and liabilities. Like many work platforms, it involves providing the ‘tools to bring together the supply of, and demand for, labour’ (Graham and Woodcock, 2018: 242). In the case of Deliveroo, this means engaging large numbers of workers as self-employed independent contractors to deliver food from restaurants to customers. It has grown to an estimated 100 000 riders worldwide.
In August 2016 workers at Deliveroo called a wildcat strike, protesting outside of the company’s then headquarters in central London. The call for the strike circulated on WhatsApp groups and in meeting points around the city. The main grievance was a proposed change in payment terms, moving from a payment system that combined an hourly rate and delivery payment to only paying per delivery. There was no consultation on the changes, instead the decision was pushed out to workers. Deliveroo had been rapidly expanding and the strike punctured the image of new, flexible work. The news of the strike spread around London and the UK, as well as circulating internationally on social media.
Much has changed in the platform economy in the last five years. In this article, we analyse what processes have unfolded since the strikes in 2016. There has been a growth of worker organising that has experimented with different tactics. In particular, we focus on understanding how union organising has developed with workers who joined the IWGB (Independent Workers Union of Great Britain) Couriers and Logistics Branch during the 2016 strikes. The IWGB is an ‘indie’ union (Pero, 2019) which is not a member of the mainstream Trades Union Congress (TUC). Over the past five years, this project has involved different attempts to build worker power at Deliveroo with a range of tactics and strategies. After five years, there are important questions from this experience. First, what tactics have been successful? Second, which tactics have not worked? Third, what has the organising with a small independent union involved? Fourth, what can we learn from this experience that can be applied elsewhere in the so-called gig economy? Fifth, are there broader lessons for worker organising and trade union models that can be taken from this experience?
In order to address these questions, the article presents new and existing empirical research. It starts with a review of the literature on platform work. It then moves through the different dynamics of struggle at Deliveroo: wildcat strikes, networks and internationalisation, attempts at union organising, the legal campaign, and leverage and the Deliveroo IPO. The article concludes by considering what can be learned from these dynamics.
2 Platform Work and Union Organising
Platform work and the gig economy have become incredibly popular topics of research. There is a very wide ranging literature that approaches the topic from very different angles. For example, there is a burgeoning literature that is interested in the role of technology. In particular, there has been a focus on algorithmic management (Lee et al., 2015; Rosenblat and Stark, 2016; Rosenblat, 2018; Duggan et al., 2020), the work behind algorithms (Gray and Suri, 2019), the data generated during the work (van Doorn and Badger, 2020), or new modes of control (Wood et al., 2018; Veen et al., 2019). More widely, there has been a rejection of the once-attempted term ‘sharing economy’ (Slee, 2015), with Srnicek (2017) identifying different business models in ‘platform capitalism.’ Scholz (2017) has demonstrated the impact on workers who are underpaid and overworked (or ‘Uberworked’ in his terms), while Cant (2019) provides a detailed autoethnography at Deliveroo. There has been debate in the literature about the legal status and the use of self-employment to engage workers
(Aloisi, 2016; De Stefano, 2019), which has been termed ‘bogus self-employment’ and been legally contested (Kirk, 2020). There is also a growing radical literature that has been examining platform worker struggles (Tassinari and Maccarrone 2020; Wells et al., 2021), by engaging with workers (Waters and Woodcock, 2017; Cant 2018a–c; Mogno, 2018; Cant and Woodcock, 2019; Cant and Mogno, 2020), as well as more academic writing that draws on workerism in a new content (Englert et al., 2020; Woodcock, 2020, 2021). While these studies have provided important insights into the actual struggles of platform workers, there has been less attempt sofar to connect these findings to ongoing debates about worker organising or critical analyses of trade unions. For example, there have been long running debates about the loss of workers power (Cohen, 2006), many of which have tried to draw on understandings of the work relation as conflictual by nature (Hyman, 1975). While some have tried to take a longer perspective (Silver, 2003), others have debated different models of unions, including ‘partnership’ and ‘organising’ (Heery, 2002), what ‘organising’ is for (Simms and Holgate, 2010), the tensions between the rank-and-file and bureaucracy (Darlington and Upchurch, 2012), the role of social identity in unions (Moore, 2011), mobilisation theory (Kelly, 1998), the role of the labour process (Atzeni, 2009), or more radical approaches to organising (Ness, 2014). In the UK, case studies have shown the potential for renewal of trade unions in particular sectors, including the London Underground (Darlington, 2001), through examples of struggles like the British Airways Cabin Crew strikes (Taylor and Moore, 2015), as well as drawing out the tensions (Simms et al., 2013). More recently, debates have become dominated by discussions of ‘organising for power’ (McAlevey) with the importation of specific models of organising. However, this does draw attention to the role of power (Holgate, 2021), which is no doubt important in how worker organisation is formed and articulated.
There remain important gaps in the existing literature on worker organising at Deliveroo. In part this is due to the ongoing and changing processes of struggle and organising, as well as a lack of focus on workers activity in the platform economy in much of the literature. In order to address this gap, the paper draws on extensive ethnographic research from both authors over the past five years. The two projects have involved different elements of auto-ethnographic research, ethnographic observation, participative research, interviewing, and co-writing with workers. In addition, for this article the authors spoke to union organisers and Deliveroo workers to understand the recent developments. The data presented here combines and synthesises previous findings, using these to analyse the dynamics of platform worker organising at Deliveroo in the UK.
3 Dynamics of Struggle at Deliveroo
3.1 Wildcat Strikes
On the 11th of August 2016, Deliveroo workers in London went on strike. They had received a text from the platform that announced they would no longer be paid £7 per hour and £1 per drop, instead receiving only £3.75 per drop. Workers recognised this was a significant shift in risk being shifted onto them from the platform, particularly as Uber had just launched its rival offering UberEats. The same month, Deliveroo had also raised an additional £212 million from investors. As Woodcock (2016a) noted at the time, the action did not come as a surprise. Earlier that week, discussions with workers across the city had shown anger against the platform and talk of organising. What was surprising was the scale of the action: workers went on strike for 6 days and joined a trade union.
This first strike in the platform economy showed a militancy that has continued over the last five years. The wildcat strike provided an important way to bring workers together. London is a large city which Deliveroo breaks down into a large number of different zones. During the strike, hundreds of workers came together outside of the headquarters in impromptu mass meetings. Through these meetings workers shared tactics and strategies, voting on demands to make to the platform. This involved building out from picketing the office to setting off in convoys to speak to restaurants about the strike. In central London, some restaurant workers chose to turn off the Deliveroo app in solidarity with the strike. The strike became widely shared on social media, with supporters donating ￡10 000 to the crowdfunding strike fund. Part of the way through the action, two UberEats workers visited the strike. While at first this looked like it might have been part of the competition between the two rival platforms—there had been rumours of large bonuses to convince Deliveroo workers to switch—they had come to find out more about the action. Later that month, workers went on wildcat strike at UberEats (Woodcock, 2016b). Wildcat strikes have become a key part of the repertoire of platform worker struggles (Woodcock, 2021). The platform model involves engaging the workforce through self-employment. This means that using traditional methods of control can risk undermining the bogus self-employment model, as it can be challenged on this basis. Instead, platforms have attempted to limit their interaction with workers, including minimal communication, lack of training, and indirect control through algorithmic management. While this protects the platform against employment status claims, it also limits managerial interventions that are found in other forms of work. For example, while algorithmic control provides a ‘lean’ (Srnicek, 2017) business model, it also lacks the ability to mediate worker grievances through supervisory or managerial engagement (Cant, 2019). Therefore, small grievances continue to build, eventually finding their expression through workers logging off the app. As these workers are not formally involved, they can circumvent the restrictive anti-strike laws in the UK, immediately going on wildcat strike.
As Cant (2018a) has shown, in the 18 months following the strike in London, there were 41 different incidents across 7 countries: the UK, Netherlands, Germany, Spain, Belgium, France, and Italy. There are three important features of this: first, the number of incidents increased over this time; second, the number of workers involved in each action increased; and third, that the strikes became increasingly synchronised across the 7 countries. As Cant (2018a) argued, these three features taken together constituted a transnational wave of platform worker resistance. Cant’s (2018a) analysis also showed that Deliveroo workers were much more prone to taking strike action than other workers in the economy: ‘A rough estimation suggests that approximately 42% more working days were lost to strike action per worker in Deliveroo than in the total UK workforce over the period from September 2016 to August 2017.’ Later analysis of ‘labour unrest’ in food delivery platform workers found an increasing incidence of action. From January 2017 to May 2020 there were 527 incidences across 36 countries captured in the study by Joyce et al. (2020). In particular, they found ‘the most notable was Deliveroo, which accounted for more than a quarter of all incidents (28.5%).’ As with the previous wave ‘for the most part, these incidents took place in Europe, specifically in the UK, Spain, France, Belgium and the Netherlands.’ (Joyce et al., 2020: 6). In the five years that followed, wildcat strikes still regularly happen. While there are some strikes that are reported in the press, many more happen that are never covered. For example, across London there are still sporadic wildcat strikes that happen, sometimes localised around specific restaurants or particular issues.
3.2 Networks and Internationalisation
As noted above, there has been a tendency for riders to come into contact with each other and form networks, both in person and through WhatsApp and social media (Maffie, 2020). The IWW launched a series of courier networks that maintained contact with riders in the UK (Cant and Woodcock, forthcoming). The IWGB has a membership of Deliveroo riders, but also interacts with a wider network. The waves of strikes identified by Cant (2018a) have brought riders into contact with each other across international borders. For example, this strike wave led to the formation of the Transnational Couriers Federation. As Cant and Mogno (2020: 410) have argued, the Transnational Couriers Federation:
emerged because of the confluence of an objective material basis in the class composition of delivery platforms and a subjective desire amongst the workers’ involved to articulate their demands and their politics on a scale that goes beyond the national. Perhaps most importantly, however, these workers believe there is a potential for the multiplication of their associational power through transnational coordination.
The growth of platforms across national borders has provided the basis for new connections. While there are many shared forms of work across national borders, few have concrete reasons to coordinate their struggles. For example, there are international outsourcing companies that organise cleaning and security in different European countries. However, the connections between these workers have not been formed in the same way. The subjectivity of the platform worker, often pushed as part of the self-employed and flexible image of the work from the platform, has facilitated the creation of these networks (Woodcock, 2021). The different national contexts have an important effect on the way platform work is organised (Woodcock and Graham, 2019) and these networks have provided a way to share tactics and strategies. However, the benefits of these networks have been less tangible in terms of concrete victories at platforms like Deliveroo.
3.3 Attempts at Union Organising
Following the strike in 2016, a group of Deliveroo workers in the UK joined the IWGB. The initial contact was made with the union through social media, particularly as the IWGB had previously had successes organising with bicycle couriers. The CLB (Couriers and Logistics Branch) has supported workers at eCouriers to win a 28% pay rise, at CitySprint a 17% pay rise, and better pay and conditions at Mach1 (Woodcock, 2016b). Based on the experiences of these struggles, the CLB was able to provide support to the ongoing Deliveroo strike. During a meeting facilitated by one of the courier members, workers collectively voted on a set of demands to take to Deliveroo management. The new payment scheme was rejected, calling for the London Living Wage(1) plus costs of the work, coming out at £11.40 per hour with a £1 payment per delivery. The union attempted to negotiate while the strike continued. The strike in 2016 ended after six days. At the time, Deliveroo offered to consult further on the changes. The managers refused to enter into any formal process of negotiation or recognition of the IWGB. Deliveroo fell back upon the bogus self-employment of workers, using this as a pretext to refuse engagement with worker representatives. While the changes were delayed, Deliveroo later changed the payment scheme across London to remove the hourly rate. In purely economic terms, the strike was not able to win any sustained improvements for workers. A layer of workers from the strike were recruited into the CLB, becoming active union members and continuing to organise after the strike.
One of the major obstacles to union organising at Deliveroo is the high level of churn amongst the workforce. As Deliveroo has reported, the average length of time working for the platform is only ten months. Many workers are already looking for other work when they sign up and take other opportunities when they arise. High levels of workplace churn are common in many service industries and are not unique to platform work. However, the reality of this dynamic is that it can make building union density a constant struggle. Estimates on the total number of workers vary—and indeed the Covid-19 pandemic is likely to have significantly impacted this—but estimates have put the number as high as 50,000.
The pattern of IWGB CLB branches forming in tandem with wildcat strike action has also been evident in Brighton and Bristol. Both cities saw the creation of branches in 2017–2019 that flourished for a short period of time before going into decline. Key activists in both branches identified churn as a major factor in their failure to create a permanent basis amongst the workforce despite significant short-term success in mobilising for collective action. In addition, these branches also experienced difficulties in synthesising informal forms of organisation created by workers in response to the labour process with union structures. The emergence of strikes in both cities relied on a pattern of networked collective action made possible by fractured self-communication networks that linked one informal work group to another and had a diverse range of organic leaders. At the time of mobilisation, the union branches were able to participate in this process as one node amongst many, and contribute to the successful exertion of power against the platform. However, three factors prevented this short-term success from turning into a long-term approach: divergences in the social composition of different fractions of the workforce, the diversity of the networks that had been mobilised, and the refusal of the platforms to engage with trade unions and legitimate representatives of worker organising. Instead of a synthesis between informal and formal forms of organisation to produce one central point of focus for the organising effort, the union branches continued to operate as just one node in a wider network. Both continued to conduct successful campaigns for significant periods of time after the first wildcat strikes but ultimately found themselves unable to renew their activist leadership in the face of continued churn (Cant, 2020).
Over the past five years the attempts at union organising with CLB have developed in different ways. Towards the end of 2016 in London, the union focused on street organising in a specific Deliveroo Zone in London: Camden and Kentish Town. This involved regular stalls, leafleting, and recruitment across the zone, aiming to gain a majority of union membership. This formed part of the legal strategy (discussed in more detail later) to form a bargaining unit in this zone. Indeed, when the Central Arbitration Committee(2) made its first ruling on Deliveroo in 2017, it found that the majority of workers in the zone wanted collective bargaining rights. This was one of the first major pushes for union organisation after the strikes in 2016. The CLB held regular meetings for Deliveroo workers and hosted discussions on tactics and strategy. As the organising developed alongside the continuing wildcat strikes and legal strategy, the CLB has experimented with what trade unionism involves with Deliveroo workers. In 2019, the branch formed the Riders Roovolt campaign, ‘a dedicated campaign led by Deliveroo riders taking a flexible approach, within the CLB branch, to challenge the poor treatment and low pay the takeaway delivery company forces upon workers.’(3) This involved a website and social media accounts for the campaign, along with paid staff time to support the campaign. In a sign of the continuing importance of both wildcat strikes and WhatsApp networks, the campaign runs a WhatsApp hotline. They suggest the following reasons to get in touch: ‘I have a question about the union’, ‘help, riders in my zone are ready to strike’, or to ‘share an idea.’(4) The FAQs section of the website also discusses the issues of so-called “deactiviations” which are common in platform work: ‘the whole process of terminations and Deliveroo rider support is opaque and unfair which is why there is a campaign to change it.’
The Riders Roovolt campaign has become a key part of the organising strategy of the CLB. As one of the organisers explained, they have had some casework success, although this is at a lower rate when compared to the other IWGB branches. The main casework issues are “deactivations” and the campaign has had success dealing with egregious issues or clear mistakes on the part of Deliveroo. This has involved adapting a casework model first developed with the UPHD (United Private Hire Drivers) branch of the IWGB that organises Uber and other app drivers. This involves the union representing the member to appeal a deactivation, attempting to leverage the platform into reversing the decision. The refusal to formally negotiate on the part of the platform, as noted earlier, as well as the unilateral and opaque decision making process creates a difficult content within which to carry out casework. However, successfully appealing “deactivations” provides an important example of where the ‘frontier of control’ (Goodrich, 1975) can be pushed back—albeit only in a limited way.
The attempts to build leverage have also developed with specific campaigns organised with the Riders Roovolt campaign. While part of the day-to-day union activities involve casework and street recruitment, there have also been experiments with local campaigns with workers. For example, there has been some success targeting specific restaurants (that are clients of Deliveroo). For example, there have been campaigns against Wagamama restaurants in London and Sheffield. These campaigns targeted specific restaurants, rather than the platform, with grievances focused on mistreatment by managers and long waiting times. Both of these factors stem from the labour process at Deliveroo. First, the managers represent another form of control, in this instance embodied in a person mistreating the worker, rather than the less tangible algorithmic control. Second, the long waiting times are a disruption to the proposed labour process organised by Deliveroo, further removing control from the worker and reducing their potential earnings with further unpaid waiting times. These struggles have emerged organically at many restaurants, providing a point of confrontation for workers who can opt to boycott restaurants. Similarly, there have been some local disputes with councils over the availability of parking and waiting areas. The CLB has recently entered into negotiations with Hackney Council over parking in Dalston. While these campaigns may not win improved conditions or concessions from the platform directly, they build confidence amongst workers and ameliorate negative aspects of the labour process.
3.4 The Legal Campaign
The legal campaign at Deliveroo began in 2016. The IWGB has sought worker status for Deliveroo riders and union recognition. At the start, this involved a street recruitment campaign in the Camden and Kentish Town zone. The IWGB applied to the Central Arbitration Committee to be recognised for collective bargaining, after Deliveroo had rejected the IWGB request. This process involved a dispute over whether the workers were self-employed or had worker status. The UK, unlike many other countries, has three different employment categories. There are employees and the self-employed, but also ‘the intermediate, but distinct, “worker” status [which] has entitlements to the National Minimum Wage, protection against unlawful wage deductions, statutory minimum rest breaks and paid holidays, a limit on 48 hours of work on average per week (although worker can opt out), as well as protections against discrimination and for whistleblowing.’5 Jason Moyer-Lee (2018), the then General Secretary of the IWGB, explained that platforms claim:
the problem is confusion in the law, or the inability of the law to keep up with the times, which can result in workers being inadvertently deprived of rights to which they’re entitled. On the other side of the debate, you have those of us who have been submitting and repeatedly winning tribunal cases establishing the ‘gig economy’s’ labourers as limb (b) workers, in particular the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB), and of course the judges who are writing these decisions. We say the law is pretty clear and the companies are clearly on the wrong side of it.
The IWGB had won a series of worker status cases with couriers in London. For example, a series of cases at Citysprint, The Doctors Laboratory, and others. However, the Deliveroo case went from appeal to appeal, without ruling in favour of the workers or the IWGB. Deliveroo had to adapt their model at various points, including adding an order rejection button and including a substitution clause (that a worker could have another person substitute in for them) in response to the legal arguments.
While the legal campaign failed, it was part of a wider experimentation with how to organise in the gig economy. The IWGB experimented with street organising in a particular neighbourhood, both recruiting to the union, as well as collecting interest for union membership and collective bargaining. This grew into organising in other neighbourhoods and other forms of protest. A similar process was followed at The Doctors Laboratory, in which a worker status case at the Employment Tribunal was one part of a wider struggle. This included recruitment across the fleet, protests, strikes, and then obtaining worker status, trade union recognition, and facility time for the representative working there. The Doctors Laboratory is one example of how legal strategy can be effectively combined with other forms of action and organising. The company would have not conceded on the issue of worker status if the IWGB had not organised the fleet. Given the other forms of worker action that had been used against the company, management knew there would be consequences if they did not concede. The legal strategy alone may have failed at Deliveroo, but it can form part of a wider campaign.
3.5 Leverage and the Deliveroo IPO Campaign
The most recent example of the campaign at Deliveroo has involved combining different forms of action with a focus point for the company during the launch of an IPO (Initial Public Offering). An IPO is a moment of public exposure for a company. Investors are paying particular attention to the company and its finances, as well as the press. However, this moment also came during the Covid-19 pandemic, with limits on face-to-face organising and union activity being moved online. The IWGB took this moment to develop a multifaceted campaign that brought together a range of tactics discussed above. The first was to develop an investigation with The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. An app was developed that analysed riders invoices to calculate rates of pay. The investigation found that Deliveroo riders were earning as little as £2 per hour (Mellino et al., 2021).
This press attention was leverage for a campaign that targeted institutional investors in the ipo. In the IPO prospectus, Deliveroo noted that ‘business would be adversely affected if our rider model or approach to rider status of our operating practices were successfully challenged or if changes in law require us to reclassify our riders as employees’ (quoted in Watchman and Buttle, 2021), referencing the IWGB cases against the company. The evidence of low wages and poor conditions was shared with potential investors. ShareAction organised a conference for 27 asset managers, inviting Deliveroo riders and the IWGB to speak. One attendee, Eden Tree Investment noted that Deliveroo and its business model was ‘best characterised as a race to the bottom with employees in the main treated as disposable assets—which is the very antithesis of a sustainable business model’ (quoted in Watchman and Buttle, 2021). A series of institutional investors withdrew from the IPO, citing concerns about workers’ rights (Topham, 2021). In particular, Watchman and Buttle (2021) note that ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) concerns affected the IPO: On the “S” in ESG considerations there were 3 main issues which exercised the asset managers to differing degrees: (1) the legal, litigation and regulatory risks around the status of Deliveroo riders; (2) the safety and welfare of the Deliveroo delivery riders; and (3) the human rights of those riders and their entitlement to the minimum wage or the living wage. In addition, 70 MPs publicly backed the IWGB’s ongoing campaign for improvement in Deliveroo riders conditions.
On the day of the IPO in April 2021, Deliveroo workers went on strike. A convoy of strikers arrived outside Deliveroo’s London Headquarters with red flags and flares. International action was organised by the TWU in Australia, CGT in France, FNV in the Netherlands, SIPTU in Ireland, and UGT in Spain. The combination of each part of the campaign led to a report by The Financial Times stating that it was the ‘worst IPO in London’s history’ with almost £2 billion wiped off the opening market valuation (Bradshaw and Mooney, 2021).
4 Making Sense of Platform Worker Organising
Across all these different dynamics the worker campaign at Deliveroo had developed different forms of power. These have started with the wildcat strike actions that continue to today, both connected to and beyond the IWGB union. It has become clear that wildcat strike action alone is not enough to win sustained victories for workers in the platform economy. The development of networks between workers and with unions holds the potential for more sustainable organising that can develop the power needed to do so. What emerges from the networks, attempts at union organising, legal campaigns, and leverage is that there are logics of influence and logics of membership in platform worker organising (Vandele, 2021). Self-organisation of platform workers is emerging from the labour process (Tassinari and Maccarrone, 2020), starting from points of conflict (Atzeni, 2009), but this can be supported by new forms of trade unionism like the IWGB.
There are many contradictions that emerge in practice with the campaigns. There are tensions and incidents of racism between different groups of workers, as well as tensions with particular restaurants and staff working at them. However, one of the main contradictions is the lack of victories from the widespread action that has been taken. In part this is a result of the refusal by Deliveroo to engage in collective communication or negotiation. However, some of the tactics outlined above have resulted in some improvements in working conditions. For example, the legal strategy forced Deliveroo to introduce the reject button and substitution clause. More recently, Deliveroo have announced that they will offer a form of limited sick pay, as well as one-off payments for maternity and paternity. While the platform has not announced these as responses to worker organising, it is clear that these would not have happened without the campaigns and pressure from organising. Deliveroo now reveals some information to the union through casework to fight deactivations. From the union perspective, the major challenge remains churn of membership. On average, workers stay at Deliveroo for ten months before moving on. However, the IWGB has been able to bring in new members, develop these members—some of whom have become representatives and officials, and build workers’ confidence. This has provided a focus through which organisation can develop.
What has become clear so far is that the platform worker organising has encompassed a range of different tactics that attempt to build a strategy for worker power at Deliveroo. There are five component tactics that have been identified in the UK. First, wildcat strike action; second, networks and internationalisation; third, union organising; fourth, legal campaigning; and fifth, wider leverage campaigns. Each of these tactics have important strengths, as can be seen from the evidence at Deliveroo, but they also have individual limitations and weaknesses. However, what emerges from our research is that there are important and open questions about platform workers’ struggles. In different national contexts platform worker struggles have taken different forms and involved different dynamics. This provides the opportunity to compare and contrast the different tactics being used in order to better understand which—or indeed which combinations—are proving successful in practice. The past five years have shown that Deliveroo workers can organise, the years ahead will show how workers can turn this into victories.
(1) The London Living Wage is calculated by the Living Wage Foundation and has been used in many iwgb campaigns. More information here: https://www.livingwage.org.uk/.
(2) The Central Arbitration Committee is a tribunal body that determines applications for statutory trade union recognition. More information here: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/central-arbitration-committee.
(3) Rider Roovolt. More information here: https://ridersroovolt.com/.
(4) It is also worth noting that the contact page contains the following: ‘for academics and researchers: our time and resources are spent on organising riders, any unpaid interview requests looking for access to members is unlikely to be successful. Offers of support that are mutually beneficial have a better chance of being responded to.’ A sign of how frequent the inquiries of research access have been.
Aloisi, A. “Commoditized workers. Case study research on labor law issues arising from a set of ‘on-demand/gig economy’ platforms.” Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal 37 (3) (2016), 653–690.
Atzeni, M. “Searching for injustice and finding solidarity? A contribution to the mobilisation theory debate.” Industrial Relations Journal 40(1) (2009), 5–16.
Bradshaw, T. and A. Mooney. “Disaster Strikes as Deliveroo Becomes “Worst IPO in London’s History”.” Financial Times (31 March 2021), available online at https:// www.ft.com/content/bdf6ac6b-46b5-4f7a-90db-291d7fd2898d.
Cant, C. “The wave of worker resistance in European food platforms 2016–17.” Notes from Below (2018a), available online at https://notesfrombelow.org/article/ european-food-platform-strike-wave.
Cant, C. “More rider, more radical, more… break: An interview with French riders.” Notes from Below (2018b), available online at https://notesfrombelow.org/article/ more-rider-more-radical-more-break.
Cant, C. “#Slaveroo: An interview with Belgian riders.” Notes from Below (2018c), available online at https://notesfrombelow.org/article/slaveroo-belgian-riders.
Cant, C. Riding for Deliveroo: Resistance in the New Economy (Cambridge: Polity, 2019).
Cant, C. We are a service class: a workers’ inquiry into the class composition of service commodity production during the unreal interregnum. PhD dissertation, University of West London (2020), available online at https://repository.uwl.ac.uk/id/ eprint/7785/.
Cant, C. and C. Mogno. “Platform Workers of the World, Unite! The Emergence of the Transnational Federation of Couriers.” The South Atlantic Quarterly 119 (2) (2020) 401–411.
Cant, C. and J. Woodcock. “The End of the Beginning.” Notes from Below (2019), available online at https://notesfrombelow.org/article/end-beginning.
Cant, C. and J. Woodcock. “The Fast Food Shutdown: From disorganisation to action in the service sector.” Capital and Class 44 (4) (2020), 513–521.
Cant, C. and J. Woodcock. “The Cycle of Struggle: Food Platform Strikes in the UK 2016–18.” In Gig Economy: Workers and Media in the Era of Convergence, eds. B. Dolber, C. Kumanyika, M. Rodino-Colocino and T. Wolfson (London: Routledge, 2021), pp. 256–268.
Cohen, S. Ramparts of Resistance: Why Workers Lost Their Power and How to Get it Back (London: Pluto Press, 2006).
Darlington, R. “Union Militancy and Left-wing Leadership on London Underground.” Industrial Relations Journal 32 (2001), 2–21.
Darlington, R. and M. Upchurch. “A reappraisal of the rank-and-file/bureaucracy debate.” Capital and Class 36 (1) (2012), 73–91.
De Stefano, V. ““Negotiating the Algorithm”: Automation, Artificial Intelligence and Labour Protection.” Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal 41(1), 15–46.
Duggan, J., U. Sherman, R. Carbery and A. McDonnell. “Algorithmic management and app‐work in the gig economy: A research agenda for employment relations and HRM.” Human Resource Management Journal 30 (1) (2020), 114–132.
Englert, S., J. Woodcock and C. Cant. “Digital Workerism: Technology, Platforms, and the Circulation of Workers’ Struggles.” tripleC 18 (1) (2020) 132–145.
Graham, M. and J. Woodcock. “Towards a fairer platform economy: Introducing the Fairwork Foundation.” Alternate Routes 29 (2018) 242–253.
Gray, M.L. and S. Suri. Ghost Work: How to Stop Silicon Valley from Building a New Global Underclass (New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019).
Goodrich, C.L. The Frontier of Control: A Study in British Workshop Politics (London: Pluto Press, 1975).
Heery, E. “Partnership versus Organising: Alternative Futures for British Trade Unionism.” Industrial Relations Journal 33 (2002) 20–35.
Holgate, J. Arise: Power, Strategy, and Union Resurgence (London: Pluto, 2021).
Hyman, R. Industrial Relations, A Marxist Introduction (London, Macmillan, 1975).
Joyce, Simon, D. Neumann, V. Trappmann and C. Umney. “A global struggle: worker protest in the platform economy.” ETUI Policy Brief 2 (2020), available online at https://www.etui.org/publications/policy-briefs/european-economicemployment- and-social-policy/a-global-struggle-worker-protest-in-the-platformeconomy.
Kelly, J. Rethinking Industrial Relations: Mobilisation, Collectivism and Long Waves (London: lse/Routledge, 1998).
Kirk, E. “Contesting ‘bogus self-employment’ via legal mobilisation: The case of foster care workers.” Capital & Class 44 (4) (2020), 531–539.
Lee, M.K., D. Kusbit, E. Metsky and L. Dabbish. 2015. “Working with machines: The impact of algorithmic, data-driven management on human workers.” In Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM SIGCHI Conference, eds. B. Begole, J. Kim, K. Inkpen and W. Wood (eds.) (New York, NY: acm Press, 2015), pp. 1603–1612.
Maffie, M.D. “The Role of Digital Communities in Organizing Gig Workers.” Industrial Relations 59 (1) (2020), 123–149.
Mellino, E., C. Boutaud and G. Davies. “Deliveroo Riders Can Earn as Little as £2 an Hour during Shifts, as Boss Stands to Make ￡500m.” The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (2021), available online at https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/ stories/2021-03-25/deliveroo-riders-earning-as-little-as-2-pounds.
Mogno, C. “A new global challenge against platform capitalism.” Notes from Below (2018), available online at https://notesfrombelow.org/article/new-global-challengeagainst- platform-capitalism.
Moore, S. New Trade Union Activism: Class Consciousness or Social Identity (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).
Moyer-Lee, J. “When will ‘gig economy’ companies admit that their workers have rights?” The Guardian (14 June 2018), available online at https://www.theguardian. com/commentisfree/2018/jun/14/gigeconomy-workers-pimlico-plumbersemployment- rights.
Ness, I. “Introduction.” In New Forms of Worker Organization: The Syndicalist and Autonomist Restoration of Class Struggle Unionism, ed. I. Ness (Oakland, CA: PM Press, 2014).
Pero, D. “Indie Unions, Organizing and Labour Renewal: Learning from Precarious Migrant Workers.” Work, Employment and Society 34 (5) (2019), 900–918.
Rosenblat, A. Uberland: How Algorithms are Rewriting the Rules of Work (Oakland, CA: University of California Press, 2018).
Rosenblat, A. and L. Stark. “Algorithmic Labor and Information Asymmetries: A Case Study of Uber’s Drivers.” International Journal of Communication 10 (2016) 3758–3784.
Scholz, T. Uberworked and underpaid: How workers are disrupting the digital economy (Cambridge: Polity, 2017).
Silver, B. Forces of Labour, Workers’ Movements and Globalisation since 1870 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2003).
Simms, M. and J. Holgate. “Organising for What? Where Is the Debate on the Politics of Organising?” Work, Employment and Society 24 (1) (2010), 157–168.
Simms, M., J. Holgate and E. Heery. Union Voices: Tactics and Tensions in UK Organizing (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2013).
Slee, T. What’s Yours Is Mine: Against the sharing economy (London: or Books, 2015).
Srnicek, N. Platform Capitalism (Cambridge: Polity, 2017).
Tassinari, A. and V. Maccarrone. “Riders on the Storm: Workplace Solidarity among Gig Economy Couriers in Italy and the UK.” Work, Employment and Society 34 (1) (2020), 35–54.
Taylor, P. and S. Moore. “Cabin crew collectivism: Labour process and the roots of mobilisation.” Work, Employment and Society 29 (1) (2015), 79–98.
Topham, G. “Deliveroo Dampens ipo Expectations as Investors Raise Workers’ Rights Concerns.” The Guardian (29 March 2021), available online at https://www. theguardian.com/business/2021/mar/29/deliveroo-ipo-investors-workers-rights.
Vandele, K. “Will trade unions survive in the platform economy? Emerging patterns of platform workers’ collective voice and representation in Europe.” ETUI working paper (Brussels: etui, 2021).
van Doorn, N. and A. Badger. “Platform Capitalism’s Hidden Abode: Producing Data Assets in the Gig Economy.” Antipode 52 (5) (2020), 1475–1495.
Veen, A., T. Barratt and C. Goods. “Platform-Capital’s “App-etite” for Control: A Labour Process Analysis of Food-Delivery Work in Australia.” Work, Employment and Society 34 (3) (2019) 388–406.
Watchman, P. and M. Buttle. “Deliveroo: The worst IPO in history, with a side-order of ESG investor boycott.” Responsible Investor (2021), available online at https:// www.responsible-investor.com/articles/deliveroo-the-worst-ipo-in-history-with-aside- order-of-esg-investor-boycott.
Waters, F. and J. Woodcock. “Far From Seamless: a Workers’ Inquiry at Deliveroo.” Viewpoint Magazine (2017), available online at https://www.viewpointmag.com/ 2017/09/20/far-seamless-workers-inquiry-deliveroo.
Wells, K., K. Attoh and D. Cullen. ““Just-in-Place” labor: Driver organizing in the Uber workplace.” Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space 53 (2) (2021) 315–331.
Wood, A.J., M. Graham and V. Lehdonvirta. “Good Gig, Bad Gig: Autonomy and Algorithmic Control in the Global Gig Economy.” Work, Employment and Society 33 (1) (2018), 56–75.
Woodcock, J. “#Slaveroo: Deliveroo Drivers Organising in the “Gig Economy”.” Novara (2016a), available online at https://novaramedia.com/2016/08/12/slaveroodeliveroo-drivers-organising-in-the-gig-economy.
Woodcock, J. “Learning lessons from Deliveroo and UberEATS.” Pluto Press Blog (2016b), available online at https://plutopress.wordpress.com/2016/08/31/learninglessons-from-deliveroo-and-ubereats/.
Woodcock, J. “The Algorithmic Panopticon at Deliveroo: measurement, precarity, and the illusion of control.’ Ephemera (2020), available online at http://www.ephemerajournal.org/contribution/algorithmic-panopticon-deliveroo-measurementprecarity-and-illusion-control.
Woodcock, J. The Fight Against Platform Capitalism: An Inquiry into the Global Struggles of the Gig Economy (London: University of Westminster Press, 2021).
Woodcock, J. and M. Graham. The Gig Economy: a critical introduction (Cambridge: Polity, 2019).