Couriers in Sheffield are currently engaged in what is now the longest ‘gig economy’ strike in British history. Their militancy is an inspiration for workers everywhere, as the class struggle intensifies. Forward to victory!
Sheffield Stuart couriers, organised in the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB), have been out on strike since 6 December. It is now the longest ‘gig economy’ strike in British history.
The couriers are fighting a cut in the base rate, from £4.50 per delivery to £3.40. This is effectively a 24% wage cut for an already low-paid, highly-exploited workforce.
This is despite JustEat (who Stuart delivers for) seeing its profits soaring in the past period – with sales rising by 54% on the previous year in 2020, and a further 76% in the first six months of 2021.
Couriers in Sheffield and elsewhere are demanding a new base rate of £6 per drop plus mileage, with paid waiting times after 10 minutes. This is more than a fair demand given the huge profits these bosses are making.
?❤️? STRIKE WEEK 2 AND WE ARE STRONGER THAN EVER!!! ?❤️?
Sheffield delivery drivers are united, focused & not backing down. @Stuart_Delivery @JustEatUK, listen to your workers and implement a pay rise now so we can return to serving our communities.#WeDontTakeNoPayCuts pic.twitter.com/nCDS6lthlP
— IWGB Couriers Sheffield (@SYorksCouriers) December 13, 2021
So far, couriers have been boycotting and picketing all six McDonald’s restaurants in the city, every day from 5pm to 10pm. The strike is now in its second week, and has added KFC to the list of boycotted restaurants.
Sheffield Hallam Marxist society and Socialist Appeal supporters have been at the picket lines to show solidarity. There is a strong sense of militancy among the workers on the ground.
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From speaking to the couriers, it is clear they are prepared to carry this strike on indefinitely. Many also recognised it must be a cross-industry strike, seeing the need to expand and join with other unions.
One courier even raised the idea of needing a strike movement that would grow beyond just Britain, and involve the workers of the world!
The conditions behind the strike are clearly not isolated to Sheffield; all Stuart workers face these cuts. The demands of the strike apply to courier workers across the whole country. Therefore, in order to really hit Stuart and JustEat and win the strike, it is vital the strike spreads to other towns and cities. In effect, it must go national.
This may seem to some as an impossible task for these gig-economy workers. Historically they have often been wrongly written-off in the labour movement as ‘unorganisable’. But this has been repeatedly proven wrong in recent years.
In fact, at the time of writing, the strike has indeed spread to neighbouring towns. This includes Chesterfield, and places as far away as Sunderland. There is even potential for it to spread even further to Blackpool and Huddersfield. This is a promising sign.
Sheffield strikes back
This strike is also one of many disputes that has hit the city and South Yorkshire more widely in recent weeks. While not all have resulted in workers going out on strike, it shows there is rising anger and discontent in the working class.
Refuse workers at Veolia Sheffield won a pay rise after threatening indefinite strike action. Drivers at Stagecoach are on strike currently, and will move to taking indefinite action from 1 January.
Both universities in the city took part in the recent UCU strikes. And there is talk of other campus unions joining the UCU out on strike next term.
This increasing industrial action isn’t isolated to Sheffield, but is part of the wider intensification of class struggle in Britain today.
Workers squeezed by rising inflation (i.e. real-terms pay cuts) and attacks on conditions are not taking this sitting down. Anger and indignation will increasingly spill over into strike action.
For fighting unions
To keep the strike going and to win, the couriers are going to need all the solidarity they can get to grow and build the strike.
Donations and support from across the region from various unions has helped to raise their strike fund. However, their aim is to raise £20,000 by Christmas, which has not yet been met.
If you would like to contribute to the strike fund please follow this link. Furthermore, a model motion to pass at trade union branches is shown below.
As well as donations to their strike fund, the best way other unions can support this strike is through carrying the militancy displayed by these workers into their own unions. After all, the issues these workers face are not unique.
Unions must increasingly look to taking coordinated action to fight the attacks on pay and conditions workers face. There is already the potential for this in the public sector.
It is incumbent on the leaders of the labour movement to emulate the same bravery and determination of these couriers. Class compromise, capitulation, and weakness will not do.
Instead, they should be looking towards building these isolated struggles across different industries into a generalised assault on the capitalist system that offers nothing for the great majority of society. Nothing less will do.
Motion of solidarity
THIS BRANCH NOTES
1) The Stuart and JustEat couriers, who are organised in the IWGB, have been threatened with a 24% pay cut on most of the deliveries they do, which came in on 6 December.
2) The couriers have been striking since 6 December.
THIS BRANCH RESOLVES
1) To advertise our support for this strike, and
2) To make a donation of £[XXXX] to the IWGB Couriers and Logistics Branch strike fund.