Workers at delivery firm Deliveroo went on strike on Wednesday in a dispute over pay and conditions.
Socially distanced protests were held in cities including London, York, Sheffield, Reading and Wolverhampton.
The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) said its members are calling for decent pay as well as improved employment rights and safety protections.
The union said supportive action was expected in Australia, France, the Netherlands, Ireland and Spain.
“A false choice”
The action follows recent campaigns by those in the gig economy to be classed as workers and so receive better pay and conditions.
Unions won legal action recently against ride hailing firm Uber.
Alex Marshall, president of the IWGB and a former bicycle courier, said: “Deliveroo presents a false choice between flexibility and basic rights but the Uber ruling showed that, here as well as abroad, workers can have both.
“That is the least they deserve and what the public expects for our frontline workers.”
A spokesperson for Deliveroo stated: “This small self-appointed union does not represent the vast majority of riders who tell us they value the total flexibility they enjoy while working with Deliveroo alongside the ability to earn over £13 an hour.
“Only yesterday we ran a survey and 89% of riders said that they were happy with the company and flexibility was their priority.
“We are proud that rider satisfaction is at an all-time high and that thousands of people are applying to be Deliveroo riders each and every week.
“Riders are at the heart of our business and today we are beginning a new consultation with riders about how we should invest our new £50 million community fund.”
“This exploitation is no way to treat anyone”
But Greg Howard, a Deliveroo rider and an official of the IWGB, set out why he was going on strike: “I’m going on strike for my basic rights and those of all the other riders struggling to get by and support families on Deliveroo poverty pay.
“I’ve seen conditions decline for years and then working through lockdown I contracted Covid-19 and got very little support.
“After the pandemic more people than ever understand this exploitation is no way to treat anyone, let alone key workers.”