An image of a Dalston Green Party Newsletter with cut out slips encouraging riders to join the IWGB

I was recently elected as a Green Party Councillor for Dalston. One of the first things I did in this new role, just over a week after the election (14 May), was respond to a call to help couriers in my ward in response to police presence. That evening, the police attended Ashwin Street to conduct “Operation Vespa” using vehicle checks to conduct immigration raids, which led to a clash between the police and the community – a community which responded to a call to protect delivery riders. You can read more about the events of that evening in this article and in a statement I made the next day.

This act of solidarity didn’t come from nowhere. There has been a strengthening of community response around the delivery drivers in Hackney over the years which the Hackney Green Party has played an active role in.

The Hackney Green Party has been supporting the local riders and working with their union (Independent Workers of Great Britain, IWGB) for years. The heart of Dalston, in and around Kingsland High Street, is packed with restaurants and, with the rise of home delivery apps, riders park in Ashwin Street to pick up food or to have a break.

IWGB have been holding stalls in Ashwin Street to chat to riders about what they need and encourage people to join the union since around 2017. Green Party members in Dalston have got to know riders from regularly walking through Ashwin Street and by speaking to the Union about how the Party could help. In 2019, the Dalston Green Party Newsletter, going to around 4000 homes, included four tear-off slips for residents to give to couriers when they came to their door with a delivery. The slips, two in English and two in Portuguese (the most commonly spoken language of the Ashwin Street couriers), promoted the union and had a QR code to take them to a page about joining the union. This received a great response from couriers. Local Green Party members also handed out the slips in Ashwin Street, the couriers were cautious at first – as they experience a high level of abuse and people trying to order from them on the street, but regularly attending and identifying couriers in the union to translate and promote was really successful.

There has been national attention on the need to provide better facilities for our gig economy workers. The Hackney Green Party has shown a lot of public support for the couriers calling for better working conditions and dignity – joining boycotts, protests on the Town Hall steps and joining the rally and ride to the Town Hall. There is also solidarity and support between local campaign groups such as with the anti-gentrification campaign to Save Ridley Road (a culturally significant market street). All of which provides the context for the response on 14 May.

Building a relationship with the riders and IWGB has been really important to understanding the multitude of pressures facing the riders. The couriers often speak of the harassment they feel from the police and traffic enforcement officers (such as the impact and fear of situations like the recent “Operation Vespa”), neglect from the companies they provide a service for (restaurants and apps) and currently in Dalston, the council is trying to move them from their current resting spot to be able to develop the area (Novara Media covers this well).

On the night of the first full council meeting of this municipal year, the couriers were protesting on the Town Hall steps with other Hackney campaigns and Hackney Council staff who have been striking for a better pay deal. It felt really important to bring this into the meeting in my first speech in the council chamber. I am in regular contact with IWGB to understand the needs of the couriers and what I can be doing to help, I’m working within the council to champion the needs of riders:

  • Working with Community Safety Officer to seek support from restaurants and apps to provide the services the riders need
  • Continuing to support the establishment of the local Police Ward Forum to improve understanding of the local context and to develop new ways of working which provides support to couriers
  • Started conversations with Environmental Health teams about the potential support they can provide to couriers.

There is a lot you can do too

  • See what IWGB are doing in your area and get an understanding of the local issues – IWGB are brilliant but small and stretched so anything that can be done to amplify their activity would be really appreciated
  • Get to know your local delivery riders – speak to them when you can either through boycott and protests or giving out information about the union
  • Join your local anti-immigration raids group to be aware of times when help is needed (events in Peckham recently show that community action works)
  • Write to your elected representatives about the problems faced by your couriers
  • Join any communication channels where you can learn about action in your area – planned and reactive – so you are able to attend and support, even as an observer and witness to be able to speak with this experience.

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