Judges have decided that Deliveroo cannot be legally forced to participate in collective bargaining with a union that represents its riders. This ruling is the most recent development in a protracted legal dispute that started when a union attempted to represent a group of riders regarding working conditions and pay. Although lower courts had already rejected the case, an appeal was filed with the Supreme Court.
Nonetheless, the appeal was unanimously rejected by the Supreme Court’s judges.
Deliveroo riders did not have an “employment relationship” with the food courier company, according to Judge Vivien Rose, and thus were therefore not eligible for mandatory collective bargaining. In a ruling, Lady Rose and Lord Lloyd-Jones stated that a number of elements, such as the riders’ freedom to turn down job offers and to work for other companies, were “fundamentally inconsistent” with this kind of relationship. Through the formal process of collective bargaining, trade unions deal with employers on behalf of their members.
Due to the fact that riders are not considered “workers” under UK employment law, the IWGB was initially denied authority to represent riders in 2017. It presented a legal argument, but the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC), a labour law body, determined that riders were self-employed.
From then, the union has been pursuing several appeals, all of which have reached the Supreme Court. The question of whether the agreement between the food courier and its riders qualified under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the freedom to form unions, was one of the arguments made in the case, which was dismissed on Tuesday.
According to the Supreme Court, there is no law in the UK that prohibits riders from organising or joining a union, nor is there any law that prohibits Deliveroo from engaging in collective bargaining with them. However, its decision stated: “The issue is whether Article 11 requires the United Kingdom to go beyond that current position and to enact legislation conferring on Article 11 workers the right to require their reluctant employer to recognise and negotiate with the union of their choice.” According to a Deliveroo representative, the UK has “repeatedly and at every level” acknowledged that its riders are independent contractors.
“This is a positive judgement for Deliveroo riders, who value the flexibility that self-employed work offers,” the spokeswoman continued.
The IWGB countered that: “Flexibility, including the option for account substitution, is no reason to strip workers of basic entitlements like fair pay and collective bargaining rights.”
Deliveroo said that it and the GMB Union had reached a “voluntary partnership agreement” in 2021, which recognised riders as independent contractors but granted the union collective bargaining rights on salary and benefits.
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