Dalston delivery drivers demand shelter, safety and 'dignity'
- Credit: IWGB Union
Food deliveries were almost brought to a standstill as couriers protested outside Hackney Town Hall yesterday evening.
Local Deliveroo, Just Eat and Uber Eats drivers gathered to demonstrate their frustration with working conditions.
Couriers working within the Dalston area say they have been subject to a number of safety concerns.
The drivers report having been forced to wait for takeaway orders in Bentley Road car park, which lacks shelter and toilets.
The demonstration also addressed how couriers often feel criminalised. Many have reportedly been quizzed by police when picking up orders from Kingsland High Street McDonald's.
Demonstrators called upon Hackney Council and Capital Arches Group yesterday, for improved infrastructure to be installed at Bentley Road car park.
Capital Arches Group is a franchise of 30 McDonald's restaurants in London.
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Yesterday’s protest was well attended, with over 50 couriers present, according to delivery driver, Wagner Flores Xavier.
He said: “All we want is somewhere safe, dry and accessible to wait for orders so we can do our jobs without fear.
“The council has ignored our concerns and instead tries to kick us to the curb, moving us from place to place like bags of rubbish. But we are human beings and essential workers, and we demand dignity.”
Waving flags and beating drums, smoke grenades were unleashed by demonstrators outside Hackney Town Hall yesterday (January 20).
Wagner said of the protest: “It was good, the [available delivery] riders were reduced, and the population was facing that.
“It was positive, fighting for this work that we do, we don’t ask anything more. It’s not about the money, just to work [in safe conditions].”
A spokesperson for McDonald's said: "We’ve been working closely with our delivery partners, Hackney Council and local Police to find a solution to the problem, and we support the decision to offer couriers the free use of Bentley Road Car Park as an alternative waiting area."
They added that couriers collecting food from McDonald's are welcome to use customer toilets and facilities.
The protest follows two previous demonstrations and boycotts on September 17 and November 9 2021.
Organised by the IWGB, the protest called for permanent free parking, dedicated shelter space, improved security, toilet facilities, better geofencing for orders and for Ashwin Street loading bays to remain.
The demonstration was backed by Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington.
She said: “Delivery workers have become an essential part of life for many people, especially in London.
“Typically, customers are young, but [drivers] often provide a great service for the elderly or housebound. This is really important during the pandemic."
Couriers have been asked to leave Ashwin Street, where they previously waited for food orders.
Cllr Susan Fajana-Thomas, portfolio holder for community safety at Hackney Council, said: “We fully support couriers in seeking better working conditions.
“I’m also grateful to drivers for their work during the pandemic, and the whole council considers them key workers who have put themselves at risk to serve others.
“We have gone above and beyond to support couriers, including offering parking 200m from the area, covered by CCTV, at which we have waived parking fees until the end of March.”
The councillor added that the growth of delivery apps has put "significant pressure on public places, like Ashwin Street.
She also reports "numerous complaints about couriers ranging from noise nuisance and public urination to illegal behaviour such as violence and street-based harassment.
Cllr Fajana-Thomas added: "These issues are totally unacceptable, and our enforcement officers have received abuse and harassment when dealing with this on behalf of the public.
“It is not the council’s role to provide amenities to help large-scale private companies get more business, and alone we cannot solve this issue."
The council is working with McDonald's to build a shelter at Bentley Road car park.
It has also asked McDonald's to improve geo-mapping to enable couriers to pick up more jobs from the location.