Britain’s top court has ruled that riders for one of the U.K.’s biggest meal delivery companies aren’t entitled to collective bargaining protections because they aren’t employees
ByThe Associated Press
November 21, 2023, 8:53 AM
LONDON — Britain’s top court ruled Tuesday that riders for one of the U.K.’s biggest meal delivery companies aren’t entitled to collective bargaining protections because they aren’t employees, in what is seen as a landmark decision in the gig economy.
The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain sought to represent Deliveroo riders to improve working conditions for the people who scurry around the nation’s streets delivering takeout meals to customers. When Deliveroo refused to negotiate with the union, the workers appealed, arguing that the company was violating rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.
The court rejected the appeal, ruling that the right to collective bargaining is only guaranteed when there is an “employment relationship” between the workers and the company. Deliveroo riders aren’t employees because their contract with the company gives them the “virtually unfettered right to appoint a substitute to take on their jobs,” the court said.
Deliveroo welcomed the decision, saying it confirmed lower court rulings that the company’s riders are self-employed.
“This is a positive judgment for Deliveroo riders, who value the flexibility that self-employed work offers,” the company said in a statement.
The union called the ruling a “disappointment.”
“Flexibility, including the option for account substitution, is no reason to strip workers of basic entitlements like fair pay and collective bargaining rights,” the union said. “This dangerous false dichotomy between rights and flexibility is one that Deliveroo and other gig economy giants rely heavily upon in efforts to legitimize their exploitative business models.”