“It’s completely lawless”: the life of a London delivery man who demonstrated in front of McDonald’s

John Kirk has been a food delivery boy in London for just under a year and during that time his job has left him “so helpless” that he protested outside a McDonald’s against repeated fines for drivers waiting for orders. food and left exasperated by the lack of an open toilet.

The 29-year-old joined the Self-Employed Union of Great Britain (IWGB) in December 2020 because he “needed support” just months after taking office.

The East Londoner remarked: “I’ve never had a job like this before. It is completely illegal. It makes me angry. How are they doing? We tried to lobby for changes in the law.

READ MORE:Former Deliveroo driver quits his job as a ‘soul destroyer’ rider after ‘waiting for hours and earning less than £ 20 a day’

The latest action by activists was a five-hour boycott of McDonald’s orders in Dalston on September 17 after John said a petition with 100 signatures and two Hackney board meetings did little for couriers .

John Kirk has been a courier for less than a year but has already been involved in the fight for better employment rights

He described a “bunch of problems” which led to this protest, including parking fines of £ 65 which were imposed several times a day as couriers waited for orders from the Ashwin Street fast food chain in proximity.

He also claimed that the runners were being moved to a different parking lot, which does not offer toilets or shelter and is further away from some restaurants, which means they will be able to place fewer orders.

As John claimed that about 80 percent of the drivers’ orders in the Kingsland Road area came from McDonald’s customers, he, along with other cyclists, thought the delivery yard at the back of the restaurant could provide the “perfect solution” to their grievances. with this site.

A McDonald’s spokesperson said: “Although McDonald’s has access to the space behind our restaurant, it is not our disappearance and we do not have the right to grant access to others for the ‘use.

“We have worked with our delivery partners Hackney Council and the police to find a positive solution that works for residents, businesses and couriers.”

John said that while the McDonald’s protest took place in “a small place” it revealed the way delivery drivers are “treated in general”.

He handed the blame to app companies like Deliveroo and Uber Eats, saying, “They’ve changed the public space by putting thousands of couriers on the streets over the past six or seven years, but they haven’t. provide no infrastructure.

“Right now the couriers are not respected and have to take on a huge responsibility when it should be the people who make huge money from our work who wear it. We have to be provided – the public space is our workspace. “

Deliveroo had not responded to MyLondon’s request for comment at the time of publication, while a spokesperson for Uber Eats said: “Uber Eats offers couriers a flexible way to make money by simply logging in and out of our app whenever and wherever they want. We are often in contact with couriers to discuss issues or any issues they are having. “

John said he had been, and continues to be, “fairly constantly scared” of the pandemic, entering and leaving unventilated kitchens and risking his health with no chance of sick pay.

He noted that access to the toilets during closures had been a “massive problem”, saying: “Restaurants were understandably afraid of the virus, but we took a letter from the Health and Safety Executive which allowed us to use their toilet and they just flat refused.

“It’s a question of human rights. And we have to wash our hands if we deliver food to people. It really made me angry and was the first thing that made me want to join the union.

Britain's Independent Workers' Union formed in 2015 to campaign for food delivery workers
Britain’s Independent Workers’ Union formed in 2015 to campaign for food delivery workers

John added, “We’ve kept the restaurants afloat, but because we don’t work under them, we often have to wait outside in the rain or near the trash cans to prevent customers from seeing us. “

Many of the problems couriers face are due to this ongoing debate over their employment status. Those who use the Deliveroo and Uber Eats apps are technically classified as self-employed, leaving them with virtually no right to work, such as an imposed minimum wage.

John remarked: “Flexibility is a myth pushed by companies because you can have flexible work and still have rights. We should have full labor rights, but companies would be less profitable if they gave us rights. “

Councilor Susan Fajana-Thomas, Cabinet Member for Community Safety at Hackney Council, said: “Food delivery apps have seen a huge increase in popularity lately, and we fully support couriers in finding better ones. terms both with the restaurants that use them and with the companies themselves.

“The growth of these apps has also put great pressure on public spaces simply not designed to accommodate them, especially in hot spots like Ashwin Street, which is close to a number of restaurants and where the large number of couriers continuously using the area caused a major problem. nuisance both for residents and for other local businesses.

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“It is not the council’s role to provide space and equipment to help often large-scale private companies get more business, but we have gone beyond to support the couriers themselves while we are trying to address the impact on the local community – including offering free parking space just 200 meters from the area, and advocating for improved facilities for their drivers to food delivery apps and restaurants that use them.

John said wages were particularly low during the pandemic due to “runner oversaturation” that began after being put on leave or losing their jobs. He said he earns an average of £ 40 for seven hours of work, which is less than £ 6 an hour. He had to sign up for Universal Credit, but warned he was one of the lucky ones as some couriers only made £ 3 an hour.

The East Londoner commented: “We want more money. Bikers have been doing this for five or six years and have actually seen their wages go down. Personally, I have a hard time paying rent and working hours ruin your social life which just makes you feel depressed. I don’t know how long I want to do this.

Although he added, “I appreciate it sometimes because you can get into a really good flow. If we can improve the conditions, then things could be good.

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