Couriers working for eCourier, a Royal Mail Group subsidiary, will strike on 10 and 11 October.
IWGB — the union they and I are in — demands the couriers be put on worker contracts, be paid the London Living Wage after costs and that the company enter into a collective bargaining agreement with the union.
For years, eCourier — like Deliveroo and many other courier companies — 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 lacking “worker status” by threatening couriers with summary dismissals if they refuse unreasonable requests and regularly denying them trade union representation. eCourier has also used this to apply a series of unfair charges on them.
In 2017, following the launch of legal action by the IWGB, the company admitted that one courier was a worker, entitled to employment rights, and promised to launch a review into whether the other couriers should be classified as workers.
However, following that review, the vast majority remain unlawfully classified as independent contractors. The few that were moved to worker contracts were unfairly penalised with a pay cut.
IWGB Vice President and eCourier courier Max Dewhurst said: “If managers don’t agree to come to the negotiating table voluntarily, we will be forced to drag them there through industrial action.”
The strike will impact the deliveries to eCourier clients such as NHS London hospitals, private healthcare provider HCA and corporate clients Goldman Sachs, Deloitte and British American Tobacco.
In 2015, Royal Mail Group (RMG) already had “Royal Mail Sameday”, a same day delivery operation much like eCourier. RMG then acquired eCourier, which operates mainly in Greater London, aiming to expand their market share.
Trade union and Labour party activists should mobilise to support the strike, particularly from the CWU, which represents most RMG workers, and is currently balloting over strike action.
Labour’s 2017 manifesto committed to “reverse the privatisation of Royal Mail at the earliest opportunity.”
The CWU goes further, calling for “democratic public ownership” for Royal Mail and BT. This should be expanded to include all divisions and subsidiaries of the Royal Mail Group, which should be unified into one organisation.