Deliveroo IPO: Why I am not investing in my company

by Umberto Bacchi | @UmbertoBacchi | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 1 April 2021 09:07 GMT

Deliveroo delivery drivers cycle through the centre of Manchester, Britain, March 8, 2021. REUTERS/Phil Noble

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As Deliveroo makes its stock market debut, one rider for the company says he won't be investing - he'll be striking instead

A Deliveroo rider for more than 3 years, Wave Roberts will not be rushing to buy shares in the food delivery group when they become available to the public.

Instead, the 24-year-old will go on strike to demand better working conditions, underscoring concerns about the company that led some investment firms to shun the stock as it began trading for institutional investors on Wednesday.

Shares in Deliveroo plunged by as much as 30% in their stock market debut, Britain's biggest in nearly a decade, after some top investment firms stayed away, citing a lack of rights for riders as an investment risk.

The Independent Workers' Union of Great Britain (IWGB) - of which Roberts is a representative - has called on riders in Britain to strike on April 7 and highlight widepsread dissatisfaction with the company's business model.

Deliveroo says the views of the union do not represent the vast majority of its 50,000 self-employed riders in Britain, adding job satisfaction levels was at an all-time high, and that  flexibility was a big attraction.

This is Roberts' story as told to correspondent Umberto Bacchi:

I have worked for Deliveroo in Reading, west of London, for just over three years.

The whole reason for going into this line of work was that I suffer from ulcerative colitis, a chronic illness.

There are days when I can have no energy and days when I can have a volatile stomach.

Being a rider was something I could do to provide for myself whilst working flexibly around my condition and my health.

But it has now got to a point where it's no longer sustainable. There are too many people working and just not enough jobs to go around. Pay has been decreasing, with each ride now bring in between 3.10 and 3.30 pounds ($4.54).

We're having to work a lot more to make the money we used to make.

I normally log in the app from 8 in the morning to midday and log back in again in the early afternoon, working until my illness allows.

When I first signed up, I used to aim to make at least 400 pounds a week, now it's ok if I get 200 pounds, as that way I know I am surviving, and have enough to cover the expenses I've incurred for my motorcycle, taxes, food and so on.

But I know lots of riders who work until the last hour deliveries are active at night in their area because they have family, they've got wives and kids to support. Some have ended up in credit card debt because of how things have got.

With the pandemic we have been putting ourselves at risk, yet they still reduced our wage.

That's why we are going on strike, for them to give us better pay and security, things like minimum wage guarantees and paid holidays.

Just because we deliver food or groceries it doesn't mean we don't deserve to be treated with respect and rewarded for our effort.

All I got after working for them for three years, tirelessly and during a pandemic, despite having a chronic illness was a 'Thank you' email to mark the firm's market debut. That was kind of upsetting.

There is no chance I would buy shares in Deliveroo. I would rather invest in an ethical company that looks after its people.

Hopefully Deliveroo can learn a lesson from this and become a more ethical company that values its workers. I think that would be a huge selling point also for other companies going forward.

We are in a generation of activism and change, where making a difference is seen as important and what people want.

This interview was shortened and edited for clarity.

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($1 = 0.7264 pounds)