Ken Loach supports striking couriers’ call for basic workers’ rights

Film director Ken Loach has lent his support to striking mail couriers, who are calling on their employer – a private Royal Mail contractor – to provide them with basic workers' rights.

11 Oct 2019| News

Men and women working for eCourier picketed on Whitechapel Road in London after the company refused to pay them the National Minimum Wage, even after a tribunal found it was unlawfully misclassifying couriers as ‘independent contractors’ rather than ‘workers’.

Demille Flanore won his 2017 case against eCourier, in which he and his union the Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB) argued that the reality of his situation resembled that of a ‘worker’ under managerial control, rather than the self-employed contractor the firm claimed he was.

Even though the court agreed with Flanore, other eCourier workers on similar or identical contracts to him remained classified as independent contractors, and those who the firm reclassified as ‘workers’ were victims of an unfair pay cut as a result.

Further, the IWGB claims that the firms couriers – who deliver Royal Mail services by motorcycle, van and pushbike – have been threatened with dismissal for refusing unreasonable requests, heaped dubious charges on them for using the XDA scanners it provides, and denied them trade union representation.

The strikers are now demanding to be treated as ‘workers’, paid the London Living Wage, and permitted to collectively bargain for fair wages and conditions.

Yesterday, Ken Loach is reported to have called the strikers with words of encouragement. The director’s latest release Sorry We Missed You depicts the struggle of exploited gig workers in the mail industry.

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.”