Foreign food delivery drivers of the Talabat food delivery company in Dubai staged a mass walkout on Tuesday, May 10, protesting inadequate pay and abysmal working conditions amidst rising costs of fuel, motorcycle maintenance, toll charges, visa fees, among others. This was the second such collective labor action this month in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). An earlier strike was staged by food delivery workers at British food delivery company Deliveroo, which forced the company to drop its plans to implement pay cuts and extend shift working hours.
The strike action which began on Tuesday saw workers of Talabat, the Middle East unit of the German food delivery company Delivery Hero that operates in countries including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, stop work and gather together in parking lots next to their motorcycles early at dawn. Among the main demands of the drivers is an increase in their pay from the current rate of USD 2.04 per delivery to USD 2.59 per delivery. The drivers say that this is necessary for them to cope with the steadily rising gas prices, which have risen more than 30% just this year. Workers complain that they are forced to work between 12-14 hours daily, seven days a week, in order to earn enough to cover costs, which ultimately leaves them with around 2,500 Emirati Dirhams (USD 680). This calls into question the company’s claim that workers earn about 3,500 Dirhams (USD 953). The workers have warned that the strike action could continue if the company doesn’t commit to the pay increase. The company in a statement acknowledged that the strike has led to ‘operation delays’.
Tabalat workers were reportedly inspired by the strike organized earlier this month by the Deliveroo workers whose mass walkout forced the British-owned company to cancel its proposed plans to cut their pay and increase working hours.
The strike action is rare as the oil-rich Gulf kingdom has outlawed public protests, industrial action and trade unions, similar to other countries in the Gulf region. These countries have regularly faced international condemnation for the abuse and violations of labor rights, such as taking away of workers’ passports, paying low wages, not providing healthcare and other kinds of insurance, violently suppressing workers’ protests and neglecting their problems. A majority of the foreign workers working in the Gulf come from countries in Africa and Asian countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.