Thousands of food delivery drivers went on strike in Dubai over the weekend to protest low wages and poor working conditions, a rare event in the city that is the center of trade in the Middle East, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Workers contracted with Deliveroo, a UK app launched to the public last year with Amazon support, refused to deliver any orders for more than 24 hours, paralyzing the company’s service during the final days of Ramadan.
Videos posted on social media on Sunday showed dozens of messengers in company uniforms standing next to their motorcycles parked outside a restaurant in Delvero.
Other drivers said they did not show up for work and refused to log in to the app to deliver orders.
The drivers, who organized themselves via social media and online messaging apps, ended their strike early Monday after the company said it would restore its previous pay and working hours.
In a statement, Delvero said it has put all its decisions on hold and will work with drivers to ensure they remain compensated competitively. She added: “Our original intention with this announcement was to propose a more nuanced driver earnings structure as well as other incentives. Clearly, some of our initial intentions were not clear when we listened to the riders.”
The Ministry of Human Resources and the Dubai Media Office did not respond to The Wall Street Journal’s requests for comment.
Strikes are extremely rare in the UAE. The government bans unions, strikes and public protests.
During the Corona epidemic, the United Arab Emirates has proven to be a safe and comfortable haven for workers, attracting thousands of millionaires and tech entrepreneurs. But it has been criticized for years, including around Expo 2020, over the treatment of millions of low-wage workers from Asian countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines.
Mustafa Qadri, executive director of the human rights organization Equidem, said that despite the recent reforms of labor laws in the UAE, workers are more likely to be arrested because of the strike.
“If so, thousands of workers in one of the largest international companies are being treated in Dubai, then it raises questions about the broader risks of forced labor in the UAE,” Qadri added.
Delvero drivers say they are burdened with the high costs associated with buying and repairing their motorcycles, obtaining and renewing work permits from local authorities and paying their rent and traffic fines.
They also complain about poor health care despite the risks they take when cycling on Dubai highways.
The strike comes amid rising inflation, with global energy and food prices expected to rise sharply this year as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine changes the way goods are traded, produced and consumed around the world.
Last week, Delvero decided to reduce the amount it pays drivers in Dubai for each delivery to the equivalent of $ 2.38 instead of $ 2.79, and to extend shifts to 12 hours a day.
This came after the UAE government’s decision to raise fuel prices in April for the third month in a row, increasing pressure on drivers.
A Pakistani driver said: “Work 12 hours (and) you will get the same pay. We said we are humans, not machines, we can not work 12 hours on the road.”