At the 11th hour, we have received a reply from City Sprint – you can read their letter here, and see below for the response from IWGB President Jason Moyer-Lee.
Dear Mr. Ritterband
Thank you for your letter today regarding the IWGB Couriers’ London Living Wage campaign at City Sprint. I must say, you have picked an odd time to write us. Indeed for months we have been writing you in an effort to open a dialogue and commence negotiations over pay. All of our communications to date have gone unacknowledged. I do wonder if your timing has something to do with the fact that tomorrow morning we are staging a protest at your headquarters with drums, music, flags, megaphones, over 100 confirmed participants, the leader of the Green Party, and lots of filming and press coverage, including the BBC. In any case, as the old adage goes: better late than never.
In your letter you say that you have “analysed courier pay” for the period January to May, 2015 and have found that the couriers’ average equivalent hourly income is £10.48, which, of course, is higher than the London Living Wage of £9.15. You also add in for good measure that earnings have actually gone up for couriers at your company by 15% over the past three years.
Now there are a number of points to be made about your ludicrous claims. However, before we get in to these, you might want to take a look at this product I found on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Statistics-Dummies-Deborah-J-Rumsey/dp/0470911085/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1433766816&sr=1-2&keywords=statistics+for+dummies. Amazon has solid union-busting credentials so buying it from them should be right up your alley. Also, if you actually paid every courier £10.48 per hour, I am sure you will have no trouble finding one to deliver the book to you in a jiffy.
Coming on to your bogus claims, there are four main reasons why we will not heed your request and acknowledge that our “campaign is unfounded”. First, we simply do not trust your figures. Even allowing for some higher-earning couriers who may bring up the average (which I will comment on below), there is no way that the average courier is earning £10.48. It is important to note that you have backed up this assertion with zero evidence. Indeed, the contents of your letter have been circulated to a number of our members and the responses have ranged from laughter to outrage. So either you are blatantly lying, or your payroll department is massively incompetent as they keep paying couriers less than they supposedly earn. The two options are not mutually exclusive.
Second, even if the average rate that couriers get paid comes out as equal to or slightly above the London Living Wage, the average rate is not what we are interested in. The concept of the London Living Wage is about putting a floor on wages and ensuring that no workers earn less than this basic survival amount. In other words, we are concerned with theminimum not the average. The concept of the National Minimum Wage works in the same way. For example, if McDonalds chose to pay a third of its workers £1 an hour but others £13 per hour, they couldn’t tell HMRC: “our average employee earns the minimum wage so therefore we are minimum wage-compliant”!
Third, your letter willfully neglects the expenses that couriers have to incur. In addition to bicycle maintenance, tax accountants, and extra clothing and food, there is also the Courier Pack (radio, bag, CITYTRAKKER computer, etc.) for which your couriers are obliged to pay you £24 per week! We have been crystal clear, all along, that our demand is for the London Living Wage plus reasonable expenses necessary to do the job.
I will put the fourth point to you in the form of a question. This point brings out the most nonsensical aspect of your letter, so do take your time in responding so as not to stick your foot in it any further. If the couriers were actually earning above the London Living Wage as you claim, then why on earth would they have come to the union, formed a new branch, and launched a London Living Wage campaign in order to win the London Living Wage at City Sprint? And as a follow up question: Don’t you think it would have made more sense to campaign for a salary which is higher than that which they already earn?
You say in your letter that you are proud of your fleet and that City Sprint offers its couriers the opportunity to make the highest earnings in the industry. We are actually not too far apart on that one. You see we chose to target City Sprint first precisely because City Sprint is a trend-setter on couriers’ rates. However, we believe that your never-increasing rock-bottom rates are keeping wages low at other courier companies as well.
By way of closing, I would comment on one of the more humorous of your fantastical assertions. You say “The fact that over a quarter of our pushbike couriers have worked with us for more than five years is testament to the strength of our relationship.” Now optimism is a quality which is highly valued here at the IWGB. (For example, we are very optimistic that in the near future you will succumb to the pressure and offer a wage increase). And when it comes to choosing whether the glass is half full or half empty, the IWGB will always go with half full. But you seem to be saying the glass is one quarter full. Did it ever occur to you that the fact that roughly 75% of your couriers have not been with you for five years might be an indication of the low wages and exploitative conditions which characterize employment at City Sprint?
Until City Sprint can guarantee that all couriers are earning a minimum of the London Living Wage plus reasonable expenses, this campaign will continue.
Dr. Jason Moyer-Lee