23 March 2016, London. The Couriers Branch of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) has submitted a claim to the Employment Tribunal which, if successful, will revolutionise the employment status of cycle couriers, making them eligible for the basic rights and benefits that they are currently denied: the minimum wage, paid holidays, and protection from trade union victimisation, among others.
The claim is being brought against four of the UK’s largest courier businesses: CitySprint, eCourier, Addison Lee and Excel Group Services.
Cycle couriers are vital to the smooth-running of the UK’s business sector, but many don’t even earn the minimum wage. This is because they are classified as ‘independent contractors,’ an employment status which allows companies to deprive their couriers of basic employment rights. The IWGB’s claim seeks to challenge this ‘independent contractor’ status, arguing that, in practice, couriers tend to work for only one company at a time, are subject to the control of their managers, and have no say over their rates of pay. If successful, the claim would result in a re-classification of the couriers’ employment status, thereby transforming the the working lives of the UK’s couriers.
The couriers have an excellent legal team as they are being represented by two barristers from Cloisters Chambers: Sarah Fraser Butlin – who teaches trade union law at Cambridge University – and Jason Galbraith-Marten QC.
The IWGB’s President, Dr. Jason Moyer-Lee, said:
“For too long the courier industry has been premised on the hyper-exploitation of bicycle couriers. Courier companies have used the bogus classification of ‘independent contractor’ to deprive riders of wages and the most elementary of rights. With this case the IWGB wants to put an end to that for once and for all.”
CitySprint courier and Accreditation Officer for the Couriers and Logistics Branch of the IWGB, Maggie Dewhurst, said:
“Couriers shouldn’t be the ones suffering financially, mentally, emotionally and physically because some company that they work for can’t be bothered to pay them or afford them normal employment rights. There should be something somewhere that provides a tiny bit of regulation.”
The IWGB is an independent union that has had numerous successes securing increased wages for workers across London. The Couriers and Logistics Branch of the IWGB has over 100 members from across the industry. Its first action was a campaign aimed at forcing the UK’s biggest courier firm, CitySprint, to pay its riders the London Living Wage (£9.40). The campaign, which was supported by the leader of the Green Party, Natalie Bennett, was a success and achieved a roughly 17% pay rise for its couriers (their first pay rise in over a decade). Further action by the IWGB forced eCourier (the UK’s second largest courier service) to implement a pay rise in March 2016, and the campaign against eCourier for the London Living Wage plus costs continues.
The IWGB is financing this action via crowd-funding. Please visit: www.crowdjustice.co.uk/case/couriers
For more information, see: https://iwgbclb.wordpress.com/
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