"I simply want recognition for the job I perform".
I have been working for ECourier, a Royal Mail subsidiary, for about two years. I get paid per delivery, so I have struggled with variations in my wages, which have ranged from as little as £120 a week, up to £700 a week.
Unsurprisingly, it has been very difficult to plan ahead, budget, or save for time off, given the fluctuating nature of my earnings.
In addition to this, ECourier has, for such a long time, evaded its legal responsibilities by refusing to recognise basic worker’s rights. It has refused to recognise our trade union the IWGB, and failed to afford us even the basic level of respect we all deserve.
It many ways ECourier is a quintessential “gig economy” company. I’m worried it’s unsavoury business practices will permeate the rest of the Royal Mail Group, now run by a controversial new CEO, Rico Back.
Although Royal Mail purchased E-Courier for around £17m in 2016, ECourier has already paid out approximately £5m in dividends to its parent company in the past two years alone. That means that profits equivalent to roughly a third of the company’s value, have speedily gone straight to the top, while those of us on the front line – generating the company’s profit – have received nothing. Many of us have even received pay cuts.
The sad fact is that ECourier profit twice from our labour: first, from the delivery of each parcel, and second, from renting my colleagues and I the essential equipment used for the job – often at market rate.
The cost of the equipment (motorbike, insurance, radio) is deducted from my weekly wage, ensuring the company always covers its costs, while I have to cope with the market fluctuations. In my book, this is extremely unfair, and tantamount to stealing.
According to Health And Safety Law, all employers are required to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to their workers. As a motorcyclist, I have to wear a helmet as a legal requirement, but have been offered no compensation for my purchase; I’m just expected to pay for it. Add to this all the other equipment I need to wear for working outside in the elements, and costs start to add up. All ECourier has to do to evade its legal responsibilities, like PPE provision, is say it’s not my employer, and that actually I am my own “business entity”!
In my opinion that’s exactly where illegality meets cynicism, because ECourier knows it’s our employer – as does Royal Mail! We caught a glimpse of RMG’s former CEO Moya Greene saying she agreed with the IWGB’s position, and included it in our latest campaign video. Thanks Moya!
Despite claiming to be committed to “operating best practice in terms of how people work and the need to ensure the most effective and appropriate delivery model” ECourier seems happy to operate a “gig economy” business model that leaves its staff out of pocket and struggling with in-work poverty. This trend towards Dickensian values must be stopped – we have to strike.
I simply want recognition for the job I perform, often in very difficult conditions, and a decent wage. I should not be out of pocket simply for attending work. Everyone deserves a real living wage and basic rights.
C.W.U members and all Royal Mail employees are at risk of the same future I currently deal with on a daily basis: in-work poverty, no worker’s rights and no trade union recognition. This is why they need to fight against the continued fragmentation of Royal Mail, which will inevitably reduce the strength and unity of the CWU trade union.
I do not want to strike but feel that this is now the only option that will achieve any results. I want an end to the totalitarian control present at ECourier. I want them to respect the law and all of our basic rights. I want stability.
All in all, this is not too much to ask for: fair pay, recognition, value.
Mike Hutchinson is a motorcycle courier for eCourier.
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