IWGB

"We need to develop workers' capacities"

Henry Chango Lopez (pictured above, centre, before the pandemic) is the new General Secretary of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB). He spoke to Sacha Ismail. In recent years the IWGB has had a high profile in part because it’s grown quite a lot when trade unions in general have stagnated. Why is that? It’s really just about the situation of workers at the moment, the way the economy is, outsourcing, precarious employment – these are problems that many unions have not tackled. Unions do not effectively organise workers in these situations. The problem is so wide...

Private hire workers strike for safety

Private hire drivers working for multiple apps, including Bolt and Uber, struck on 3 March to demand improved safety provision, after Bolt driver Gabriel Bringye was stabbed to death while working on 17 February. Nader Awaad, chair of the Independent Workers' union of Great Britain (IWGB)'s United Private Hire Drivers branch, which supported the strike, said “Most of my colleagues have been assaulted at work so Gabriel’s death is not only tragic but alarming. That’s why we’re calling not only for practical health and safety measures but also culture change. “Passengers don’t expect to be held...

Couriers: push the courts, organise at work

An important legal case is in the works. A claim for holiday pay and the minimum wage for couriers working for food delivery app Stuart (the delivery arm of JustEat) is being brought to court by law firm Leigh Day. In December 2019 a judge found that a courier employed by Stuart was not an “independent” contractor, but a “dependent” contractor, also known in legal jargon as a “limb (b) worker” — the reason being that a courier working for Stuart is obliged to accept a food order if no other worker picks it up. That means that theoretically, all couriers working for Stuart have a claim on...

Couriers: half a step forward

Food delivery firm Just Eat is set to bow to pressure and start employing couriers as employees rather than as spuriously self-employed “independent contractors”. The company plans to start employing 1,000 workers “directly” via a delivery arm (Scoober) which will be operated by the recruitment agency Randstad. This means that these workers will all receive some measure of sick pay, holiday pay and other employment rights which most UK food delivery workers are currently denied. Just Eat’s move is part of a Europe-wide move by the firm towards regularising the employment of its delivery...

Shutting down all the apps

On Wednesday 25 November the majority of the takeaway food delivery workforce in Sheffield struck. The strike affected all of the big apps — Stuart, Deliveroo and UberEats — and involved over 100 drivers. It effectively shut down the delivery service across the city. On the drivers’ WhatsApp, pictures flooded in of restaurant order boards overflowing with uncollected orders. The workers were united around three key demands: living wage after expenses; a fair process around discipline, with hearings and natural justice for drivers accused of infractions; and a hiring freeze, to stop the big...

Sheffield couriers strike

On Wednesday 25 November, food couriers in Sheffield will carry out an all-day, all-out strike. Their demands, aimed at all food platforms, are for a living wage plus costs, a fair process on terminations from platforms, and a hiring freeze. In recent weeks, many couriers across Uber, Stuart and Deliveroo, have found themselves being terminated with no right of appeal. In many of these cases the reason for the termination is computer error. For example, Uber requires riders to submit selfies during a shift in order to prove that they have not rented out their account to a third party. But Uber...

Court win for "gig" workers

The IWGB union has won a legal battle over the rights of gig-economy workers, and couriers especially, during the pandemic. A judgment issued on 13 November means that workers in the “gig economy” are entitled to the same EU-derived health and safety rights as employees. Key rights are: • To be provided with Personal Protective Equipment by the business they are working for and • The right to stop work in response to serious and imminent danger. The UK Government must now urgently take steps to ensure that workers have the same protection as employees. Meanwhile, in Sheffield, couriers working...

Students organise towards January

As lockdown began, the Minister of State for Universities Michelle Donelan reassured students, contrary to other advice coming from the government (!), that universities should carry on with in-person teaching. Meanwhile many students have voted with their feet, opting to return to parental homes to study online. Can students win what they need to rescue their academic year from university management incompetence? On Tuesday 17 November, as part of a week of action, the National Union of Students (NUS) plans a series of online “Town Hall” meetings with local MPs, to publicise their...

Workplace and union reports: Royal Academy, Unison election, Sheffield couriers

Royal Academy jobs fight In the week ending 30 October, staff at the Royal Academy of Arts in Piccadilly held five days of demonstrations outside the building, calling for the RA to reconsider their proposal to make more than a hundred staff redundant. Since the start of the pandemic, the Prospect union has seen RA staff join at speed and reach over 150 members by the start of the demos, between 30% and 40% of total staff, numbers that mirror the scale of the proposed redundancies. The daily demonstrations, typically hosting between ten and thirty people, were joyful and replete with RA staff...

Couriers hit Wagamama again

Deliveroo workers in the IWGB union in Sheffield struck on 14-15 October against Wagamama over pay and terminations. From 4pm to 10pm on those two days, deliveries were boycotted at Wagamama, which is a major and exclusive client of the Deliveroo food delivery company. Couriers are fighting against a sustained drop in fees and a threatened mass-hiring drive by Deliveroo; and demanding basic due process be applied to the way that the app handles complaints and terminations. Presently drivers can find themselves dismissed arbitrarily from the app following a single anonymous complaint, with no...

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