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(Adds company response)
By Costas Pitas
LONDON, May 12 (Reuters) - British food courier firm Deliveroo has removed a contract clause which banned its self-employed riders from seeking workers' rights, according to documents seen by Reuters, in the latest victory for unions and politicians cracking down on the "gig economy."
With their distinctive black and teal jackets, Deliveroo riders have become a familiar sight on London streets since the firm started trading in 2013, tapping into the rapidly growing demand for takeaway food delivered from restaurants.
But like taxi app Uber, which also operates in the gig economy where people tend to work simultaneously for different firms without a fixed contract, Deliveroo has been criticised for not offering rights such as holiday and sick pay.
In its new contract, the firm removed a clause which featured in some older agreements and read:
"Neither you nor anyone acting on your behalf will present any claim in the Employment Tribunal or any civil court in which it is contended that you are either an employee or a worker."
The stipulation was criticised by a British parliamentary inquiry last month, which said the contracts used by a series of burgeoning new apps were "unintelligible."
Deliveroo, which committed to removing the clause earlier this year, said the new rules would benefit its over 15,000 couriers.
"The flexible work we offer means that our riders are their own bosses - they can choose not to work if it doesn’t fit in with their own schedule, wear whatever branding they want and work for multiple companies at the same time," UK and Ireland Managing Director Dan Warne said in a statement.
Deliveroo faces an employment tribunal hearing later this month where a union is seeking to represent the firm's riders in an area of London in a push for workers' rights, the latest bid to regulate the sector.
Last year, the company started paying riders per delivery rather than per hour, which sparked opposition from some of its riders, forcing it to say they could opt out of the new system, although the trials are continuing in some places.
Deliveroo's new contract has also been cut by nearly half to four pages and removed the need for riders to provide a two-week notice period before quitting the firm.
In an email sent to riders, Warne also made clear they could work for rivals.
A previous contract said riders not wearing a Deliveroo-branded T-shirt must wear the firm's jacket and restricted the use of the box fitted to the back of bikes, making it difficult for drivers to accept multiple jobs from different providers. (Editing by Stephen Addison)