Valentine’s Day strike misery for UK lovers

Signs for food delivery companies, including Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats, in the window of a restaurant in London, UK. Instagram account Delivery Jobs UK, grouping together some of the sector’s workforce, has urged meal and shopping platform couriers to strike on Feb 14 between 1700 GMT and 2200 GMT. — Bloomberg

LONDON: Britain’s couples could struggle for last minute Valentine's Day gifts and meals after Amazon staff went on strike over pay on Feb 13 – and will soon be joined by takeaway delivery drivers, organisers said.

Disheartened workers for food apps including Deliveroo, Uber Eats and Just Eat will walk out on Feb 14, according to organisers.

Instagram account Delivery Jobs UK, grouping together some of the sector’s workforce, has urged meal and shopping platform couriers to strike on Feb 14 between 1700 GMT and 2200 GMT.

That is when the appetite for speedily-delivered Valentine’s Day evening meals is expected to surge across Britain – for those who don’t want to cook.

The GMB trade union has meanwhile called a three-day strike this week at Amazon’s giant facility in Coventry, central England, spanning from Tuesday to Thursday.

This week’s walkouts come amid broader UK industrial unrest as workers’ pay fails to keep pace with elevated prices, with the latest inflation data due Feb 14.

‘Maximising impact’

Ulisses, a Brazilian courier who declined to give his surname for fear of reprisals, is one of the organisers of Delivery Jobs UK, which unites 4,000 mainly foreign workers who are mostly Brazilian.

“The choice of Valentine’s Day for the strike is strategic, aimed at maximising visibility and impact,” Ulisses told AFP in an interview.

“Valentine’s Day is one of the busiest days for delivery services, with a high demand for meal deliveries.”

Wednesday’s strike also coincides with the publication of the latest official UK inflation data for January.

Couriers are demanding fair treatment for their “critical role”, particularly after they helped feed the nation during Covid pandemic lockdowns.

“By striking on this day, we aim to highlight the critical role delivery workers play in the economy and the importance of fair compensation and working conditions,” added Ulisses.

“This action is a call to both the companies and the public to recognise and address the unsustainable earnings that have become all too common in the delivery industry.”

Delivery Jobs UK’s membership also comprises Britain-based delivery staff from other nations including Albania, Nigeria and Romania.

“The idea is to break the supply chain (and) create chaos” so many customers complain, thereby forcing employers to address their concerns, Ulisses told AFP.

Organisers want to encourage blockades to stop the collection of food orders in a peaceful protest.

His workers’ pressure group is calling for a minimum fee of £5 (RM30) per meal delivery, compared with the current rate of between £2.80 (RM16.87) and £4 (RM24) depending on the platform.

“We ask them to share the wealth... We believe that this (level of pay) will cover inflation,” he added.

‘Fresh wave of action’

Back in Coventry, the GMB wants retail titan Amazon to pay its staff an improved wage of £15 (RM90) per hour.

“This marks the first three days in a fresh wave of industrial action after workers voted overwhelmingly to back an extension of strikes earlier this year,” the GMB said in a statement.

Britain has been blighted by strike action across the public and private sectors, threatening to tip the nation’s economy into recession.

The number of working days lost in the current period of industrial action has passed more than five million, official data showed Feb 13.

Some 5.05 million days are estimated to have been lost in labour disputes in Britain from June 2022 to December 2023, the Office for National Statistics said. – AFP

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