Uber talking to Deliveroo? A deal would join Darth Vader’s Delivery Empire with Kylo Ren’s First Food Order

The talks that are reportedly at an early stage could bring two titans of the gig economy together amid continuing controversy over the way riders and drivers say they are treated. But Deliveroo founder Will Shu will demand a high price 

James Moore
Chief Business Commentator
Friday 21 September 2018 11:40 BST
Deliver riders protesting their pay. Uber Eats riders are currently doing the same thing
Deliver riders protesting their pay. Uber Eats riders are currently doing the same thing (PA)

Uber is reportedly interested in a deal with Deliveroo and if the early stage talks get serious they could lead to the gig-tastic tie up of the century. A delivery dream deal. These two are made for each other.

Those trying to earn a crust by working for them, however, will likely view the prospect as more of a marriage made in a hell.

Both have ruthlessly exploited the employees they rely upon by claiming they’re not actually employees. No, they’re “independent contractors”, or whatever the term is that they’re using these days.

What that means in practice is no minimum wage, no holidays, no sick pay, no protection if they are involved in an accident while at work (a real danger on London’s streets as I can testify from bitter personal experience).

Riders and drivers pay a very high price for the much vaunted “flexibility” they are offered.

Rebellious ones from both firms have held demonstrations over the way they say they are paid and treated. The latest has seen those working for Uber Eats protesting at the firm’s London offices (it’s ongoing).

But both companies have basically been deaf to the protestations of their people.

Deliveroo has gone as far as to claim that it wants to offer drivers more protections but is constrained by the law.

That hasn’t stopped it from fighting an attempt to change the situation launched by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB).

Uber has fought similar actions (the GMB has also been involved).

The Government could help and Theresa May went as far as to commission Matthew Taylor to produce a report into the gig economy these two are at the forefront of, with a brief to make recommendations to shake up what is an appalling situation.

“I want a country that works for everyone,” she said, before her Government kicked the rather weak thing that came back into the long grass of Whitehall.

If a deal happens, I suppose it might mean just the one target for riders and drivers to focus their fire on. That’s not much of a consolation.

From a purely business standpoint it certainly makes a lot of sense. They both do similar things in a similar manner. So, flush with SoftBank cash, it’s no wonder Uber’s interested.

The Competition & Markets Authority is nothing for it to fear. It would likely wave such a tie up through because that’s what the Competition & Markets Authority does these days. See the Hungry House, Just Eat deal for details.

The only stumbling block might be Deliveroo founder Will Shu’s desire for a truly bloated price. He’s a former investment banker and so could be expected to drive a hard bargain.

That doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Tech based firms like these two aren’t valued like traditional businesses and Uber might just feel the opportunity presented by Deliveroo is too sweet an order to pass up.

The employees, the ones who actually have that designation at Deliveroo's head office, will loudly cheer Mr Shu if he gets Uber to pay up.

Many of them, by contrast to the firm’s riders, have share options. So they could enjoy a Mamma Mia style happy ending.

But for those upon whose backs their good fortune was built? It looks more like Darth Vader’s Delivery Empire getting into bed with Kylo Ren’s First Food Order.

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