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Deliveroo drivers denied trade union rights as Supreme Court rules they are self-employed

DELIVEROO riders were denied trade union rights today after the Supreme Court ruled that they are not technically employed by the gig-economy giant.

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, which wants to represent Deliveroo riders in north London in order to negotiate with the firm on issues of pay, hours and holiday, expressed disappointment over the decision.

After losing a bid for recognition at a specialist tribunal in 2017, the union unsuccessfully challenged that decision at the High Court and Court of Appeal, and in April took its case to the Supreme Court.

In the judgement, Lord Lloyd-Jones and Lady Rose said they agreed with previous decisions that riders are not in an “employment relationship” with Deliveroo, and are therefore not entitled to collective bargaining rights.

The judges unanimously agreed that multiple factors, including that riders are free to reject offers of work and to work for Deliveroo’s competitors, are “fundamentally inconsistent” with such a relationship.

In a statement, the union said: “We cannot accept that thousands of riders should be working without key protections like the right to collective bargaining, and we will continue to make that case, using all avenues available to us — including considering our options under international law.”

It accused Deliveroo of extreme exploitation of workers in the gig economy after a pay review in  2021 found that some riders were being paid as little as £2 per hour.

“Now Deliveroo is denying riders basic employment rights due to their ability to substitute accounts,” the union said, referring to the ability to work for other employers and reject offers of work.

The union added: “Whether reflected in legislation or not, couriers are joining the union in ever bigger numbers and building our collective power to take action and hold companies like Deliveroo to account.”

Part of the case focused on whether the arrangement between the food delivery app and its riders fell under the scope of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which covers the right to join trade unions.

Rejecting this argument, the justices said that while drivers are free to join a union and Deliveroo free to engage in collective bargaining with it, they did not, being self-employed, have the Article 11 rights “to require their reluctant employer to recognise and negotiate with the union of their choice.”

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