21 June: The Independent Workers' Union of Great Britain (IWGB) has reached a historic pay deal with NHS contractor The Doctors Laboratory (TDL), which had previously subjected its couriers to years of pay cuts. The deal proves it is possible for so-called “gig economy” workers to secure hourly pay and improved conditions through campaigns and strikes.
With this deal, self-employed couriers on “worker” status that deliver emergency blood and pathology samples for NHS and private hospitals will have the choice to move from being paid per delivery to being paid for every hour worked (1). Those on employee contracts will have the option to have their vehicles and equipment provided by the company, as well as a fuel card to cover petrol costs.
As a result, IWGB members at TDL voted in favour of the offer and have called off the strikes scheduled for 25 and 26 June.
The deal comes after the IWGB launched a campaign against the company in October of last year, which culminated in two days of strike action last month.
Following the strikes TDL returned to the negotiating table and agreed to offer the couriers improved conditions, including:
IWGB couriers and logistics branch chair, and TDL courier Alex Marshall said: “After a gruelling campaign we have managed to drag TDL to the negotiating table and agree on a deal that gives us some security when it comes to our earnings. Through our organising effort of the last two years, we have also managed to transform the workplace and stop the chronic bullying that was previously so common. This victory shows that by staying united and campaigning together it is possible to reverse the race to the bottom inherent in the business models of so many so-called “gig economy” employers."
The IWGB is also representing 45 TDL couriers as part of a £1 million holiday pay claim being heard next week at the Central London Employment Tribunal.
Until recently, TDL had denied its couriers basic employment rights, including paid holidays, by wrongfully classifying them as independent contractors. Following the launch of legal action by the IWGB in 2017, the company reclassified all its couriers as workers or employees. However TDL has never compensated the couriers for the years it denied them employment rights.
Last year, the IWGB won the right at the Central Arbitration Committee to set up a collective bargaining unit on behalf of TDL couriers, the first time in UK history that this had been done with a so-called “gig economy” employer.
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Emiliano Mellino, press officer
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