The foreign workers hired by Talabat, Delivery Hero’s unit in the Middle East, started their strike late Monday after organizing on social media, paralyzing the application’s services.
As fuel prices rose, many said they were pushing for a modest wage increase from their current rate of $2.04 per delivery – a wage that was lower than what sparked another extremely rare strike among contractors for delivery service Deliveroo last week.
Deliveroo drivers are now earning $2.79 per delivery after the strike forced the UK-based company to backtrack on its plans to cut workers’ wages and extend their working hours. Strikes and unions remain illegal in the United Arab Emirates, where the issue of labor standards has become controversial in recent years.
Videos shared on social media showed dozens of Talabat riders gathering next to their parked motorcycles at dawn. It was not clear how many riders participated in the strike, leading Talabat to acknowledge some “operational delays” on Tuesday.
Talabat, owned by Germany-based Delivery Hero, confirmed the work stoppage in a statement to The Associated Press, saying the company is “committed to ensuring riders can continue to rely on our platform to provide for their families.”
“Until last week, rider satisfaction was well above 70%,” the company added, without revealing how it came to that number. “Yet we understand that economic and political realities are constantly changing, and we will always continue to listen to what riders have to say.”
Several notable Talabat riders say they hoped to get a raise to about $2.72 per delivery, especially as they are under pressure from the high gas prices they pay out of pocket. Many drive about 300-400 kilometers (190-250 miles) a day.
Riders also described a mountain of other costs that sap their salaries, including visa fees for contractors who secured them jobs in Dubai, road tolls, regular motorcycle maintenance costs such as oil changes and hospital costs. Contractors do not offer drivers adequate accident insurance, drivers say, although many often crash on Dubai’s dangerous roads.
As a result, delivery drivers, who are part of Dubai’s huge foreign workforce, mostly from Africa and Asian countries such as India and Pakistan, have little money to pay the rent and send back home to the families they support.
As it aims to polish its image as a cosmopolitan refuge for expatriates, the UAE has faced continued criticism from human rights groups over the long hours, difficult conditions and relatively low wages of the country’s manual workers. Strikes over wage disputes have occurred sporadically in the past, though workers face deportation and prosecution for outbursts of dissent.
Authorities say the country has implemented labor reforms and is offering many workers more money than they would find amid poverty and sometimes conflict at home.
As companies struggle to recruit staff after the pandemic led to mass layoffs of manual workers across Dubai, supply contractors are feeling encouraged in the emirate’s tight labor market, analysts say. The Arab Gulf countries are also increasingly competing to attract expats and professionals.
“The full extent of the damage to the labor market has not been taken into account,” said Ryan Bohl, senior Middle East analyst for US risk intelligence firm RANE. “Percussionists know they can’t be replaced quickly.”
Khan, a 24-year-old Talabat driver and breadwinner for his family of nine in Peshawar, Pakistan, said he can barely make ends meet in Dubai – even though he hasn’t taken a day off in three months and works 15 hours a day. day. He has been hit by cars twice and injured his foot on the job, he said, but could never afford treatment.
“I’m not standing up for myself or for my friends. I know it’s not good for us,” he said, asking that he be identified only by his last name for fear of reprisals. “It’s for the future. For boys like us who come here to Dubai.”