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UK Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Deliveroo, Says Collective Bargaining Not Required for Riders

The UK Supreme Court has ruled that Deliveroo has no obligation to deal with a trade union which wants to represent its delivery people.

The UK Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Deliveroo and said their riders are not entitled to trade union rights such as collective bargaining.

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) lost a bid for union recognition at a specialist tribunal in 2017 but challenged it without success at the High Court and the Court of Appeal.

In April, the IWGB appealed to the UK Supreme Court, but on Tuesday, five justices unanimously ruled against them and said they did not have the right to negotiate on behalf of Deliveroo riders in north London on issues of pay, hours, and holidays.

In their judgment, Lord Lloyd-Jones and Lady Rose said the riders were not in an “employment relationship” with Deliveroo and were not, therefore, entitled to collective bargaining rights.

Among the factors which persuaded the judges was the fact that Deliveroo’s riders were free to reject offers of work and could even do jobs for their competitors.

‘Fundamentally Inconsistent’

They said this meant it was “fundamentally inconsistent” to describe their role as employment.

The IWGB said the food delivery app owed an obligation to its riders under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which covers the right to join trade unions.

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But the Supreme Court judge said, “Clearly, there is nothing in the UK legislation to stop the riders from forming their own union or joining the union as they have done.”

“There is also nothing to prevent Deliveroo from engaging in collective bargaining with the union to seek to agree to the terms and conditions applied to the riders if they so choose,” they added.

They continued, “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 recognize and negotiate with the union of their choice.”

‘Significant win for Deliveroo’

Nick Hawkins, partner at the law firm Knights, told PA, “This is a very significant win for Deliveroo in the ongoing ding-dong battle between gig economy ‘workers’ and businesses.”

“It is an important ruling; the status of an individual in any business is fundamental in establishing what rights they have available to them, and in the present case, the Supreme Court determined that Deliveroo riders are not workers but are truly self-employed and are therefore not able to form a union,” he added.

Mr. Hawkins said, “This will be a ruling that other gig economy businesses will have been watching closely, with no doubt some checking for the existence of substitution clauses in their contracts.”

Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, a Deliveroo spokesperson said, “UK courts repeatedly and at every level have confirmed that Deliveroo riders are self-employed, and this now includes the Supreme Court, the highest court in the country.”

The spokesperson added: “Thousands apply each week to work with Deliveroo because they want to be able to decide for themselves when, where and whether to work. We are proud to be able to offer tens of thousands of riders this flexibility alongside the security of free insurance, sickness coverage, support for new parents and a unique union recognition agreement.”

In a statement, the IWGB said the ruling was a “disappointment” and added, “As a union, we cannot accept that thousands of riders should be working without key protections like the right to collective bargaining, and we will continue to make that case using all avenues available to us, including considering our options under international law.”

The union added, “Flexibility, including the option for account substitution, is no reason to strip workers of basic entitlements like fair pay and collective bargaining rights.”

“This dangerous false dichotomy between rights and flexibility is one that Deliveroo and other gig economy giants rely heavily upon in efforts to legitimize their exploitative business models,” added the IWGB.

PA Media contributed to this report.

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