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9 in 10 couriers harassed at work, with BAME workers hardest hit - IWGB survey

Mon, Sep 20, 2021, 8:10 AM
  • 100 couriers responded to the IWGB’s work safety survey, with two thirds saying they have been physically assaulted while working.
  • 6 in 10 BAME couriers report weekly verbal abuse and physical violence at least once a month.
  • Since going on strike in April, IWGB Deliveroo riders have been demanding action from Deliveroo to provide human rider support and a mechanism to allow couriers to refuse unsafe work without penalty.
  • IWGB says Deliveroo’s Neighbourhood Watch partnership shifts responsibility onto targeted workers themselves and shifts focus away from Deliveroo’s failures to support them.

Monday 20 September: a survey of 100 couriers conducted by the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) highlights endemic harassment and abuse of gig workers. 9 in 10 couriers said they have endured harassment at work, with almost two thirds reporting physical assault. Almost half (44 percent) of respondents say they are harassed or verbally abused at least once every week. The survey also found that BAME, women and non-binary workers are disproportionately affected. Of the BAME respondents, 6 in 10 report being subjected to verbal abuse at least once a week and physical violence at least once a month. The survey remains open to all couriers in the UK, who are invited to participate.

Responding to the data, the IWGB is calling on all so-called ‘gig economy’ corporations to take responsibility for workers’ safety. 30 percent of respondents reported incidents to the app they were working for at the time and were universally critical about the corporations’ response. Most say their reports were ignored or promises to investigate subsequently broken.

Since IWGB Deliveroo riders led strike action in April they have continued to demand that the corporation take action on harassment and discrimination, offer rider support and allow couriers to refuse unsafe work without penalty. At present most apps - including Deliveroo - impose automatic penalties on couriers who refuse a job, even if it is to deliver to a business where they have been assaulted or abused in the past.

Following the murder of IWGB member Gabriel Bringye while on a job for Bolt in February, the IWBG conducted a similar survey for private hire drivers in which 7 in 10 drivers said they have been physically assaulted while working.

Jordan Harrison*, courier based in Manchester, says: "I've been punched in the face while working, I get harassed in the street every week. Sometimes it's transphobic abuse, sometimes because I'm autistic, sometimes it feels completely random. Gig economy corporations treat us like we're disposable so other people follow suit. It just feels like part of the job at this point. I don't bother telling the company I work for because I know they won't do anything. We're not employees so as far as they are concerned, they don't have any responsibility for us. You can't even get a human being to talk to on the phone."

Alex Marshall, president, (IWGB) says: “Harassment is endemic in the so-called gig economy because corporations treat it as a Wild West where they have no responsibilities and their workers have no rights. By refusing even to respect the minimum wage or provide human support after someone is attacked on the job, companies like Deliveroo set a toxic precedent that key workers are disposable. We demand action to protect them and hold perpetrators accountable.”

John Kirk, BAME Officer, Couriers & Logistics Branch (IWGB) says: “This survey provides evidence for what we long suspected was the case - that couriers suffer abuse at unacceptable rates, and that already marginalised BAME couriers, who comprise a majority of the workforce, endure this abuse even more acutely. Courier companies who repeatedly make statements expressing concern for the wellbeing of their workers need to look at this data and understand that whatever they think they are currently doing to protect them is entirely insufficient.”

For more information, contact

press@iwgb.co.uk

* Jordan's name has been changed at their request to protect their anonymity.

Notes to Editors

The union’s Couriers & Logistics Branch Women and Non-Binary Officers published this statement criticising the Deliveroo Neighbourhood Watch Scheme. Deliveroo has claimed that the active bystander training within the scheme was ‘inspired’ by and fulfills one of the IWGB strike demands.

However, Deliveroo still refuses to recognise or enter dialogue with the IWGB and has made no comment on the outstanding safety demands:

  • Combat sexual harrasment and discrimination at work
  • Introduce transparent, human, rider support
  • Allow riders to refuse unsafe work without penalty

Survey respondent findings on harassment and abuse towards couriers during work

  • Overall 9 in 10 said they have endured harassment at work, with 66% reporting physical assault and 44% reporting harassment or verbal abuse at least once a week.
  • 48% say they have been stopped by police or immigration officials while working.
  • 43% of BAME respondents said they are subjected to physical violence at least once a month, with 61% reporting verbal abuse at least once a week.
  • By contrast, 16% of white/undisclosed respondents said they are subjected to physical violence at least once a month, with 38% reporting verbal abuse at least once a week.

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