UAE: Deliveroo reverses increased hours & pay-cut after exceptional mass May Day strike from Dubai drivers
In a rare demonstration, thousands of migrant Deliveroo drivers in Dubai took strike action on May 1st 2022 to mark International Workers’ Day. The 24 hour walkout was a protest against low pay and poor working conditions as Deliveroo prepared to cut the amount workers are paid for each delivery from $2.79 to $2.38 and extend shifts to 12 hours each day. Video footage showed Deliveroo drivers demonstrating outside kitchens.
Rideshare platform workers in the region are often saddled with high costs including vehicle rent or maintenance, work permits, rent, traffic fines and are unable to afford healthcare or insurance. Drivers reportedly said Deliveroo’s policies were against UAE labour law and cited a lack of severance pay, health insurance, visa costs and a lack of return flights home after two years’ work. The Wall Street Journal reported that during the strike action, contracting agencies allegedly threatened drivers to end the strike and a Deliveroo email contained a warning that prohibiting others from working is a criminal offence in the UAE.
In a region where freedom of association is severely curtailed and criminalised in the UAE, the strike was a rare example of direct worker action resulting in company policy change as the strike ended early on Monday after Deliveroo agreed to restore the previous rate and working hours. A company spokesperson said: “Our initial intention with the announcement was to propose a more well-rounded structure for rider earnings in addition to other incentives. It is clear that some of our original intentions have not been clear and we are listening to riders.”
On May 6, The National reported that Deliveroo had launched an investigation into riders' claims of paying for their own employment visas, against UAE labour law.
If this is how thousands of workers in one of the biggest global companies get treated in Dubai, it raises questions about the wider risks of forced labor in the U.A.E. labor market.Mustafa Qadri, CEO of Equidem