“It is an absolute scandal that drivers continue to find themselves unacceptably precarious at work – being forced to survive on poverty wages and in poor conditions”
By Apsana Begum MP
On 23 February, a Deliveroo driver, named Mohamed, was trying to complete a delivery on his bicycle last night to a luxury flat building in East London when he collapsed.
Whilst I know many bystanders tried to keep him warm as Mohamed went in and out of consciousness, the reports that a customer “stepped over” him to get their order and issued complaints whilst Mohamed was waiting for an ambulance, is utterly appalling.
I understand that Deliveroo has responded to the situation by the implementation of rider safety incident management software. However, this is far too little, far too late.
Because Mohamed’s story speaks to profound and pervasive injustice – that is the treatment of drivers of app-based hire companies.
This is despite throughout the pandemic, drivers provided essential services on the frontline at significant risk to themselves and their families.
It is an absolute scandal that drivers continue to find themselves unacceptably precarious at work – being forced to survive on poverty wages and in poor conditions, working longer and longer hours just to make the rent and keep food on the table.
That is why the 2019 Labour Party manifesto pledged to give gig economy workers the same rights as full employees – along with improving workplace rights across the board. These were vital demands that we cannot abandoned.
I applaud drivers and their trade unions as they continue to campaign and organise.
The history of trade unionism and community action in East London shows how important it is for to organise collectively even when it might appear against the odds.
We can draw from a litany of examples from the Matchgirl strike in 1888, the Battle of Cable Street in 1936 or the Bangladeshi community leading the anti-fascist fightback in the wake of the murder of Altab Ali in 1978, the namesake of the park where a rally was held in solidarity with Mohammed last Friday (3 March 2023).
Because there is no doubt that today, we face challenging times – as the Tories continue prioritise big business and the super-rich.
Millions of people are now part of the “gig economy” – as the Tories have overseen an explosion in insecure work over the last twelve years.
So – whether it is postal workers, nurses, transport worker or drivers – as always, I will be standing with workers – shoulder to shoulder – in solidarity all the way.
- Apsana Begum is the MP for Poplar and Limehouse and a regular contributor to Labour Outlook. You can follow Apsana on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
- Apsana Begum is speaking at a celebration of women for socialist change on International Women’s Day ’23 (March 8th at 1PM), you can join the online rally here.