ecouriers on strike over employment rights

Couriers employed by Royal Mail’s same day delivery subsidiary eCourier and organised by the IWGB today being a two-day strike after the company repeatedly refused invitations to negotiate over basic employment rights.

The couriers will picket the eCourier HQ, at 206 Whitechapel Road, London E1 1AA between 8am and 11am.

Film director Ken Loach will join the picket line 9.30-10.00. His new film, Sorry We Missed You, which is due for release on 1 November, chronicles the life of a “gig economy” driver and the rising tide of exploitation in the sector.

IWGB Vice President and eCourier courier Max Dewhurst said: “No low-paid worker makes the sacrifice of industrial action and risks going toe-to-toe with a multi-million pound corporation, unless pushed to the brink. We have now been pushed to the brink. Every opportunity we have given eCourier to join us at the negotiating table, has been refused. But we will not be bullied into silence another day. We are workers. We demand to be recognised as such. We demand a living wage and dignified conditions.”

The strike will impact the deliveries to eCourier clients such as NHS London hospitals, private healthcare provider HCA and corporate clients Goldman Sachs,Deloitte and British American Tobacco.

For years, eCourier has been unlawfully classifying pushbike, motorbike and van couriers as independent contractors, denying them their most basic employment rights, including the right to a guaranteed minimum wage and the right to holiday pay.

The company has repeatedly exploited the precarity inherent in these contracts by threatening couriers with summary dismissals if they refuse unreasonable requests and regularly denying them trade union representation.

The company has also exploited these conditions by applying a series of unfair charges on them, including a recent demand that all couriers on one of the medical circuits pay a mandatory weekly charge of £6 for the use of their XDA scanning device. This is on top of other costs they are expected to pay such as their vehicle costs, fuel, insurance, breakdown cover and other equipment. Typically for van couriers this comes to around £200 a week.

In 2017, following the launch of legal action by the IWGB, the company admitted that its courier Demille Flanore was a worker, entitled to employment rights, and promised to launch a review into whether its other couriers should be classifed as workers. However, following the review, which excluded the participation of the IWGB or any independent worker voice, the vast majority of the couriers on similar or the same contract as Demille Flanore remain unlawfully classified as independent contractors. The few that were moved to worker contracts were unfairly penalised with a pay cut.

The union is now demanding that company classify all its couriers as workers, that it pay them at least the London Living Wage after expenses and that it enter into a collective bargaining agreement with the IWGB.

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