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Dubai: Deliveroo reverses pay cut after rare strike by drivers

Thousands of the company's drivers refused to work over the weekend in the emirate, where industrial action is illegal
Drivers for the UK-based app refused to make deliveries for more than 24 hours, devastating the company’s service at a particularly busy time during Ramadan (AFP)

Deliveroo has said it will restore pay rates and working hours it changed last week after thousands of its drivers in Dubai refused to work over the weekend in a rare strike in the emirate, where industrial action is illegal.

Drivers for the UK-based app refused to make deliveries for more than 24 hours, devastating the company’s service at a particularly busy time during Ramadan.

In an email to its restaurant partners, Deliveroo said: “We are currently facing an issue with our riders, where riders are striking and refusing to attend their shifts and deliver orders. 

"Rest assured our team is working closely to resolve this issue as quickly as possible while continuing to protect Deliveroo rider earnings.”

Videos shared on social media on Sunday showed the drivers, who had organised on social media and online messaging apps, standing idle next to their motorcycles.

Last week, Deliveroo reduced the amount it pays its drivers for each delivery from 10.25 dirhams ($2.79) to 8.75 dirhams ($2.38) while increasing the length of shifts to up to 14 hours a day.

The changes followed a decision by the government in the United Arab Emirates to raise the price of gas in April for the third consecutive month.

Threatening messages

Most restaurants use riders employed by agencies rather than directly employing them.

The Wall Street Journal said drivers had told it they had received threatening messages from the agencies that contract them to Deliveroo, calling on them to end the strike. 

A Deliveroo email seen by the US newspaper warned riders that prohibiting others from working is a serious offence that could lead to criminal prosecution, jail or deportation.

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Following the drivers' action, Deliveroo said in a statement: “We’ve listened to your feedback on these proposed changes and have decided that at the moment they do not best reflect the ways in which riders in Dubai want to work.

“For that reason we will not be making the proposed changes we had communicated.

“This means that the drop fee will remain at 10.25 ($2.79) and shift scheduling will remain as it currently is.”

On top of harsh working conditions, drivers also face a precarious existence on the road.

Earlier this month, the "It Can Wait" campaign was launched in Dubai to reduce the number of accidents involving delivery riders.

The number of accidents involving motorcycles in the emirate increased by a third in 2021.

Authorities said there were 400 accidents in 2021, compared with 300 the previous year.