Couriers employed by Royal Mail’s same day delivery subsidiary eCourier and organised by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) have voted overwhelmingly in favour of strike action (over 90% yes vote), after the company refused to grant them basic employment rights and a living wage.
The couriers plan to strike on 10 and 11 October, impacting 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.
IWGB Vice President and eCourier courier 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.”
The IWGB is the UK’s union for precarious workers. It has led campaigns and launched strategic legal action against employers such as Uber, Deliveroo, CitySprint and the University of London.