Drivers and riders working for eCourier, a same-day delivery service owned by Royal Mail Group, have voted for strike action, after the company refused to grant them basic employment rights and a living wage.
Union member couriers, 90% of whom voted in favour of action, plan to strike on 10-11 October, affecting deliveries for NHS hospitals in London and numerous other eCourier clients such Goldman Sachs and Deloitte.
In the latest dispute around worker status in the gig economy, eCourier classifies most of bike and motorbike riders and van drivers as independent contractors not “workers”, meaning they have no rights to the minimum wage or holiday pay.
In 2017, the company admitted a courier, Demille Flanore, was a worker and launched a review into whether others should be classifed as workers. Rather than contesting the employment tribunal claim, eCourier promised to pay Flanore £545 to settle the case.
The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), which is organising the industrial action, said it was excluded from the review and that the vast majority of the couriers on similar or the same contract as Flanore “remain unlawfully classified as independent contractors”. It says the few that were moved to worker contracts received 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.
IWGB vice president and eCourier driver Max Dewhurst said: “eCourier management know that we are all entitled to basic workers’ rights, but refuse to abide by the law, and instead, treat us with absolute contempt. Couriers are often dismissed without cause, pressured by controllers and forced to pay absurd charges. This has to stop and if managers don’t agree to come to the negotiating table voluntarily, we will be forced to drag them there through industrial action.”
A spokesperson for eCourier said: “We have offered worker status to self-employed colleagues where it reflects their actual working arrangements with us, and where they decide to make the change. Many of our couriers prefer to work as independent contractors because of the additional flexibility it brings. We have offered more than 25 couriers worker status over the past 12 months and we are now in discussions with an additional 36 couriers about offering them worker status. We are committed to operate best practice in terms of modern working practices and the need to ensure the most effective and appropriate delivery models.”
It is understood only around 10% of eCourier’s drivers would be striking.