24 May 2018
Support for unionisation among casual workers appears to be growing, with the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) raising nearly £10,000 in just one day as people rushed to support its legal action against “gig economy” firm Deliveroo.
The popularity of the IWGB’s fundraiser comes after the BFAWU organised two strikes among casual workers at McDonald’s within a year, demanding an end to the use of precarious zero-hour contracts, a living wage of £10 per hour, and protesting age discrimination at the company.
On 12 June, the IWGB will appear at the High Court in the hopes of appealing an earlier decision by the Central Arbitration Committee that Deliveroo couriers in the boroughs of Camden and Kentish Town are not ‘workers’ in the eyes of the law, and therefore not eligible to form a collective bargaining unit.
This means that Deliveroo couriers do not currently have access to basic workers’ rights such as the minimum wage, holiday pay and rest breaks; and that workers cannot collectively organise to negotiate for better rights with their employer.
At the time of the hearing, the CAC found that the majority of couriers in the boroughs were in support of creating a bargaining unit and taking union action. This enthusiasm for unionisation has been demonstrated again, as the workers raised £10,000 to finance their forthcoming case against the firm in just one day – 20% of the £50,000 total needed to cover the potential legal costs.
IWGB Vice President, Mags Dewhurst, said: “This unprecedented outpouring of generosity shows most people see right through Deliveroo’s bogus claims of offering flexibility and progress, when in reality their model is based on tearing up our most basic employment protections. Deliveroo might have millions in venture-capital cash, but we have the backing of the people and this gives us confidence that we will prevail.”
The Institute of Employment Rights recommends in its Manifesto for Labour Law that casual workers should be protected by collective agreements via the abolition of the three-tiered employment status system in favour of a universal status of ‘worker’ that provides all people in employment with the full suite of rights from day one, as well as the reinstatement of sectoral collective bargaining.
If granted an appeal, the IWGB will challenge the CAC’s decision by asserting that it erred in the facts and as a matter of law when it ruled that Deliveroo couriers are ‘independent contractors’ because of a clause in their contracts that allowed them a ‘right to substitution’ (the right to have someone else make deliveries on your behalf).
The union’s crowdfunder can be found here and its campaign can be followed on Twitter with the hashtag #deliverjustice.