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04 February 2020 10:22

London cycle instructors demand Mayor ends 'gig economy' contracts

  • Cycling instructors working for London local authorities are to send an open letter to the Mayor, the councils and companies demanding improved pay and conditions.
  • Instructors provide vital road safety training to FORS certified truck and van drivers, and play an essential role in the Mayor’s environmental and road safety plans.
  • Conditions in the sector have been eroding for over a decade

4 February: Cycling instructors working for London local authorities via contracted companies are demanding that Mayor Sadiq Khan and councils put an end to the deteriorating conditions and gig economy contracts that plague the sector.

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain’s (IWGB) Cycle Instructors Branch, the union’s newest branch, made the demands in an open letter that will be sent today to Khan, Cycling and Walking Commissioner Will Norman, 32 London Borough Councils, and the main cycle training contractors.

Cycle training is not only vital for the Mayor's own targets in reducing road deaths and injuries (Vision Zero), but also to tackling the rising congestion and emissions crisis on London's streets.

Much of the Mayor’s Vision Zero plan to eliminate all deaths and serious injuries from London’s streets by 2041, includes the Safe Urban Driving courses given by cycling instructors to Transport for London drivers, and FORS certified truck and van drivers.

But as the importance of the work of cycling instructors has grown, their working conditions have worsened.

Flat wages have resulted in a real-terms pay cuts at most companies, while increasingly the tendering process is seeing significant downward pressure on pay, with some rates falling as low as £12.50/hour - £7.50 an hour lower than 10 years ago. Meanwhile the duties and responsibilities of instructors have increased.

Despite working for companies that have significant control over their work, they are being contracted as independent contractors, rather than workers, emulating the worst abuses of “gig economy” employers such as Uber and Deliveroo.

Other issues include:

  • Work allocation has become increasingly disjointed and unpredictable and cancellation policies can mean whole weeks of work cancelled at 48 hours notice
  • The required training, insurance and documentation has become more expensive
  • Safety     is compromised as instructor-client ratios are stretched and, increasingly, provisionally qualified instructors are asked to carry out tasks for which they are not qualified, including the risk assessment and risk management of children in on-road training drills.
  • The recent review of the Bikeability Scheme has meant the qualification instructors have studied for and paid is suddenly no longer valid, requiring yet more financial outlay and time.

Michael McSherry, Chair of the IWGB's Cycle Instructors Branch said: “Until now, there has been no voice representing instructors and as a result conditions have deteriorated to a point where many are having difficulty making it to the end of the month. Often whole weeks of classes are cancelled with only two days notice and instructors lose out on hundreds of pounds in earnings. The outsourcing model used by almost all of the boroughs has an inevitable downward pressure on wages, on quality and on safety. The Mayor has to ask himself if he is willing to gamble the safety of Londoners on this broken system or if he will implement the modest changes we are asking for.”


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