London (AFP) - Riders for the British food courier service Deliveroo are taking legal action on Monday to demand workers' rights in a new challenge to the so-called gig economy.
In a test case that follows a court victory by Uber cab drivers, the application is being made by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain on behalf of a group of riders in Camden, north London.
Deliveroo pays the riders either by the hour or per delivery and they are currently classified as independent contractors, meaning that they do not have rights such as the minimum wage or paid holidays.
IWGB is making the case to the Central Arbitration Committee, a labour law watchdog, in an attempt to establish collective bargaining rights for the turquoise-and-grey clad "Roomen" and "Roowomen".
"It will be the first collective bargaining agreement in the gig economy," Jason Moyer-Lee, the union's general secretary, told AFP at a meeting earlier this month to encourage some of the company's estimated 8,000 riders in Britain to sign up to the campaign.
If the case for the Camden riders is successful the decision could be applied to other parts of the city.
"With today's application the IWGB is striking once again at the exploitative underpinnings of the so-called gig economy. People want basic employment rights," he said in a statement on Monday.
But the company earlier this month said that the union was not representative of the views of the "vast majority" of its riders across the country and would not accept their application for union rights.
"Deliveroo is proud to be able to offer flexible, well-paid work that fits around riders' other commitments," the company said.
- Uber case leads the way -
Since its London launch in 2013, Deliveroo has expanded into 68 cities across Europe, Asia, Australia and the Middle East.
Its model is simple. It partners with restaurants that do not have delivery services, charges the customer a £2.50 delivery charge and takes a commission fee from the restaurant.
In August, it secured $275 million in funding to boost its growth internationally, in a deal that valued the company at more than $1 billion.
"We want to be recognised as workers, so we have rights such as the national minimum wage, the right to protection against discrimination, and paid holiday," said Billy Shannon, an 18-year-old rider in Camden who is taking part in the campaign.
"I feel like I am being exploited by Deliveroo," said Shannon, who earns £3.75 per delivery.
The move follows a similar landmark case brought by Uber drivers.
A British employment court last month ruled that Uber drivers were not self-employed and should therefore be paid the national living wage. Uber is appealing the ruling.
"The tribunal decision holding that Uber drivers are, in law, 'workers' is very important," said John Hendy, a senior lawyer representing IWGB.
"But those working in the gig economy will never see a significant improvement to their terms and conditions without being represented by a union in collective bargaining," he said.