The Couriers' Branch of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain 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.
The claim is being brought against four of the UK’s largest courier businesse, CitySprint, eCourier, Addison Lee and Excel Group Services.
Many cycle couriers don’t earn the minimum wage. This is because they are classified as "independent contractors", a freelance employment status. The IWGB’s claim seeks to challenge this 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.
The couriers 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 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' 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."
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 of £9.40 an hour. The campaign achieved a 17 percent pay rise for its couriers, their first pay rise in over a decade.
The IWGB will be financing the action via crowdjustice.co.uk.