Friday 10th March saw a critical moment in the growing struggle in Deliveroo in Leeds. A mass bike ride was called by Bradford IWW, in City Square for 6pm. By the time we set off there were 100 plus people; mostly cyclists, a third of them Deliveroo couriers, the rest of us supporters, troublemakers and organisers.
Some decent speeches were given through a less-decent megaphone, including messages of solidarity from John McDonnell (Shadow Chancellor) and Richard Burgeon (Leeds Metal MP).
The cycle-demo lapped 4 times around the city centre, accompanied by a bike sound system. They passed by the busiest Deliveroo restaurants, whilst those on foot distributed leaflets and Rebelroos to the Friday night crowds, mostly to good reception. Even amongst a younger generation Yorkshire remains an area of high union support.
The demo congregated again in City Square, and we marched on towards the Deliveroo office inside Leeds train station. Earlier that week a significant but by no means final victory been won: the Leeds manager had been sacked. So with nobody in to pay a visit to, the demands were stuck onto the front door of the offices: reports from the next day said they were still up.
Chants of “Deliveroo: on your bike, joining a union is a human right” were accompanied by RMT solidarity messages, extending solidarity to station staff in the context of ongoing strikes on Merseyrail, Northern rail and Southern rail.
The taking of the streets and the march through the station felt disobedient and full of empowering potential, it brought an increasingly tight coalition of groups and individuals closer together, and many of the riders who had been cynical before were brought on side.This success was possible because alongside this spectacular there has been a hard slog of daily organising activity by the IWW, and distributing ‘Rebel Roo’ to restaurants and riders by Plan C and friends (notably Leeds Independent Socialists and members of Unite community).
We are at a critical moment in this struggle. The key is to keep up the momentum, continue to build the coalition supporting the riders, and push the boundaries with both our actions and demands – not just for Deliveroo but for us all. Everything for Everyone!
UPDATE: statement from Leeds IWW Deliveroo workers:
“Friday was a great display of solidarity, with riders from Deliveroo and fellow members of the labour movement out in equally impressive numbers.
Several of the Leeds 7 received significant increases in hours after the protest on Friday night – we are hopeful the second of the terminated riders will have their contract reinstated by Monday.
This has proved to us that with continued pressure on the company, and solidarity from all those opposed to exploitative and precarious working conditions, we can win this fight.
This is a feeling spreading amongst the Deliveroo fleet in Leeds – a great number of Deliveroo workers asked for membership forms on Friday night, and even more spoke of their surprise and pleasure at the events success.
We are growing and we are winning.”