16 November 2017
“Gig” employer CitySprint has changed its contracts after one of its couriers was found to be a “worker” at tribunal.
The firm, which classifies its couriers as “self employed” contractors, not eligible for workers’ rights, lost in a case brought by courier Maggie Dewhurst to challenge her employment status at tribunal last year.
CitySprint had been planning to appeal against the decision that Dewhurst was legally a “worker” – which entitled her to the minimum wage, holiday pay and rest breaks – but has since accepted the judgment, in a move the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) has said was likely linked to the failure of Uber’s appeal of a similar ruling.
While the company will now agree to pay Dewhurst around £200 in missed holiday pay, it has avoided providing her – or any of its other 3,500 couriers – with minimum wage or the right to annual leave by enforcing a change of contract.
She told the Guardian: “As a result of my tribunal claim, CitySprint has forced everyone at the penalty of losing our jobs to sign new documents they say are contracts, but we work in exactly the same way as before – nothing has changed. It’s a shame CitySprint would rather engage in legal shenanigans than pay me and my colleagues our holidays.”
The new contract means that Dewhurst’s tribunal success no longer applies, so she will not receive the minimum wage and holiday pay she won, except for back pay relating to the historical period covered in the tribunal case.
General Secretary of the IGWB Dr Jason Moyer-Lee described this move as a “slap in the face, not just to its couriers but also to the British legal system”.
“CitySprint’s latest move to openly flout the law is outrageous. If there ever was a case study for how the absence of government enforcement begets total impunity, this is it,” he said.
The Institute of Employment Rights proposes that the enforcement of employment law requires reform. Rather than relying on individually enforced labour law – which depends upon workers understanding their rights and when they are breached, then choosing to take their employer to court – we recommend that an independent labour inspectorate is established to identify breaches in law at workplaces and manage their resolution.
In addition, we recommend the reinstatement of sectoral collective bargaining and stronger trade union rights. By negotiating with employers and employers’ associations over the contracts of workers, trade unions can ensure labour law is adhered to and that decent and non-exploitative labour standards are set. In addition, dispute resolution procedures can be agreed within a bargaining agreement, thus allowing for breaches to be resolved in-house without recourse to the court system.
These proposals form part of our influential Manifesto for Labour Law – 25 recommendations for reform drafted by 15 leading lawyers and academics from across the UK.