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12 May 2022


Rare labour protests by Deliveroo and Talabat riders in Dubai shed light on gig exploitation

The UAE’s second protest in less than two weeks has drawn attention to the dangerous and exploitative terms of employment in the gig economy, and of food delivery riders in particular. Talabat riders have staged the most recent protest, demanding better terms of employment in a Dubai-wide strike that began at 7 PM on 9 May.

These rare acts of public protest in the UAE – where demonstrations, unionisation, strikes, and any kind of unauthorised civil society activity is illegal  – is evidence of growing frustration among the riders.

According to Deliveroo’s website, a rider must be sponsored by a rider agency partnered with Deliveroo, provide valid proof of their right-to-work and insurance coverage documents in the UAE, hold a valid motorbike driving licence, and be over 18. As employees of the agencies, riders fall under the scope of the labour law, and agencies are legally obligated to provide them with a work visa, health insurance, on-time payments, and other benefits. In practice, however, many riders end up paying for their own visas and lack the rights...

...Riders have to navigate penalties for late deliveries and the UAE’s costly speeding fines, which can start at AED 3000 (US$800).

Two sources have confirmed that agencies they have worked with are paid AED13 (US$3.54) per order...Deliveroo charges an onboarding fee for restaurants to register on the app, and also charges up to 35% commission per order.

In a statement to Migrant-Rights.org, Deliveroo said it intends to continue working with rider agencies in a “structure “that works for everyone”.

“Our initial intention with the announcement was to propose a more well-rounded earnings structure for agencies to engage with riders in addition to other incentives. Having paused all changes, we will engage with the agency riders we engage with to ensure we have a structure that works for everyone and has our agency riders’ best interest at heart, which has always been our objective.”

Road accidents are extremely common amongst riders. Agents cover bike insurance, but health insurance is covered by riders themselves, and usually has very little coverage.

“We pay for our own insurance, it costs between AED 600 to 1000 (US$170-270), but that covers nothing..."

MR also spoke to a group of riders who stood on the side of a road while on strike. Most stated that they were overworked and underpaid, and often put their own lives at risk on the job because of lack of road safety and heat stress...Four of the seven workers on the strike had paid their own visa, five had been in an accident before.

“This includes collaboratively working on developing better rider safety kit such as helmets, knee pads, safety gloves. […] Our onboarding training is comprehensive and safety focused, including safety videos from both Deliveroo and Dubai Police.”

Part of the following timelines

UAE: Deliveroo reverses increased hours & pay-cut after exceptional mass May Day strike from Dubai drivers

UAE: Talabat drivers follow Deliveroo drivers' footsteps in strikes for better pay as petrol prices soar; incl. co. comments