The “gig economy” has been recognised as an important issue in the last few years. There have recently been several high profile employment tribunals in relation to the rights of workers, including cases where large companies like Uber and Addison Lee have been taken to court by employees and subsequently had to provide new contracts.
The most recent victory for gig economy workers involves courier driver who deliver blood supplies to NHS hospitals who, following a long legal battle, have won the right to proper recognition from their employer. The International Workers’ Union of Great Britain who were working alongside the couriers believe that TDL, who provide outsourced delivery services for the NHS, should be providing their workers with employment rights.
TDL courier and IWGB union representative Alex Marshall said: “We were forced to unionise since every time we went to management with a concern we were being ignored. It is quite reassuring that we will now be taken more seriously and have a seat at the table to negotiate what we are rightly entitled to.”
The first complaints were received last year in relation to the issue. Two of its couriers put forward their case to the company that they should be treated as employees, not independent contractors, and should therefore be entitled to employment rights like holiday pay, sick pay and the minimum wage. The IWGB hopes that this will now open the door for other workers from both TDL, and other courier companies like CitySprint and Hermes, to put forward similar legal cases to their employers.
Jonathan Chamberlain, a partner at the law firm Gowling WLG, said the case marks an “important step forward” for the unionisation of the gig economy. He said: “While it is not a landmark as a legal decision, it will encourage similar cases across the gig economy and gives a great demonstration of what can be won. This is a case that is going to cause a great deal of concern amongst gig economy companies.”.
IWGB general secretary, Jason Moyer-Lee added: “The TDL couriers have shown that organising and winning in the so-called ‘gig economy’ is possible. Contrary to the Government’s empty platitudes about giving workers a stronger voice, the best way for gig economy workers to have a voice at work is to establish collective bargaining arrangements between their union and their employer.”