The IWGB is calling on government to better enforce employment status laws after the union took CitySprint to tribunal three times for denying workers basic protections.
The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) claimed victory over CitySprint after arguing that five couriers were misclassified as independent contractors, rather than workers and are consequently entitled to holiday pay.
Gig economy and worker status
In the 2017 judgment in Dewhurst v CitySprint, tribunal judge Joanna Wade called CitySprint’s contractual arrangements “contorted”, “indecipherable” and “window dressing”.
Despite that ruling, CitySprint issued new contracts but IWGB launched a second case in 2019 by successfully proving that, even on the altered contracts, the workers were entitled to TUPE protections.
This week the employment tribunal ruled 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.
Phil Weber, one of the claimants, said: “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, said: “CitySprint and other gig economy companies are making a mockery of the British legal system. If the law were enforced and sanctions were real, CitySprint 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 spokesperson for CitySprint said: “We are naturally disappointed with this ruling, and will be reviewing this in detail before deciding whether to appeal.
“We strongly believe that this judgment, which relates to a small number of individuals and a period of time that occurred several years ago, does not reflect the positive relationship enjoyed by the vast majority of couriers.”
The IWGB said a separate £44,000 holiday pay claim is being made against eCourier on behalf of three couriers who were TUPE transferred from CitySprint.
The Supreme Court is currently deliberating over the employment status of Uber drivers in the UK, a judgment that will bring to an end to a saga that began in 2016. Uber BV and others v Aslam and others will establish whether or not the 45,000 drivers, mostly in London, are workers and entitled to the national minimum wage, holiday pay and paid rest breaks.
In 2016 an employment tribunal found in favour of the drivers in a case brought by the GMB union and law firm Leigh Day. In March, France became the latest country to agree that Uber drivers were not self employed.