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IWGB wins worker status and rights for ‘gig economy’ CitySprint couriers once and for all

06 August 2020 07:00
  • City Sprint changed workers’ contracts rather than comply with a previous ruling that they were entitled to holiday pay and minimum wage.
  • The company could now be forced to pay out thousands in unpaid holidays.
  • Union says it is appalled that it had to take CitySprint to tribunal three times because the company was so determined to deny workers basic protections.

4 August: the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) has claimed victory over CitySprint, having dragged the company back to an employment tribunal for a third time to establish worker status and basic employment rights for five of its members who work for the company. The IWGB argued these couriers were misclassified as independent contractors, rather than limb (b) workers and are consequently entitled to holiday pay.

It was 2017 when the IWGB first won their case against City Sprint and established that couriers should have worker status. Judge Jo Wade described CitySprint’s contractual arrangements as “contorted, indecipherable window-dressing”. Despite the blistering ruling and an initial appeal, CitySprint failed to recognise its couriers as workers; instead they issued new contracts in an attempt to continue denying workers basic rights such as holiday pay and minimum wage, presenting the whole issue as merely historic.

The IWGB then launched a second case and have once again claimed victory in 2019 by successfully proving that even on the altered contracts, the workers were entitled to TUPE protections. Then this week the employment tribunal confirmed that couriers were workers both prior to and after the change of contracts and therefore have a rightful claim to holiday pay during both periods. CitySprint’s financial liability will be established at a final hearing in October. The IWGB says it is appalled that it had to take CitySprint to tribunal three times because the company was so determined to deny workers basic protections, but that this victory shows even when terms of contracts are manipulated, union organising can still win the fight for workers’ rights.

Phil Weber, claimant, says: “This victory over CitySprint shows what strength there is in being part of an active frontline union like the IWGB. I hope it gives others courage. So many ‘gig economy’ courier companies wrongly classify their workforce as self-employed independent contractors. We all know they’re playing the system to deny basic rights like holiday pay and pension contributions but most workers are afraid to stand up for themselves because as it is, there’s not enough work to go around and so little job security, we’re left fighting for scraps. But when we are united and fight together, things can turn out very differently.”

Dr. Jason Moyer-Lee, IWGB General Secretary, says: “City Sprint and other ‘gig economy’ companies are making a mockery of the British legal system.  If the law were enforced and sanctions were real, City Sprint wouldn’t have dreamed of simply acting like it hadn’t already lost a tribunal claim over its couriers’ workers’ rights. In the absence of the state enforcing the law, the IWGB will continue to hold these cowboy companies to account.”

A separate £43,668.86 holiday pay claim is being made against Royal Mail-owned eCourier on behalf of three couriers that were TUPE transferred from CitySprint.

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