I am a gig economy worker and Royal Mail employees are at risk of the same fate

"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.

If you can’t make it to the demonstration on Thursday (between 8am and 10am) you can support us by donating to the IWGB Couriers’ strike Hardship Fund – bit.ly/2M1X0Tn

Mike Hutchinson is a motorcycle courier for eCourier.

As you’re here, we have something to ask you. What we do here to deliver real news is more important than ever. But there’s a problem: we need readers like you to chip in to help us survive. We deliver progressive, independent media, that challenges the right’s hateful rhetoric. Together we can find the stories that get lost.

We’re not bankrolled by billionaire donors, but rely on readers chipping in whatever they can afford to protect our independence. What we do isn’t free, and we run on a shoestring. Can you help by chipping in as little as £1 a week to help us survive? Whatever you can donate, we’re so grateful - and we will ensure your money goes as far as possible to deliver hard-hitting news.

7 Responses to “I am a gig economy worker and Royal Mail employees are at risk of the same fate”

  1. I am a gig economy worker and Royal Mail employees are at risk of the same fate - Politics Highlight - News from the Left and Right

    […] 7 October 2019Politics Highlight (adsbygoogle = window.adsbygoogle || []).push({}); “I simply want recognition for the job I perform” Author: Mike Hutchinson | Source […]

  2. BREAKING: Royal Mail subsidiary accused of union victimisation as courier 'sacked' following LFF piece | Left Foot Forward

    […] was called into a meeting with Ecourier on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after publishing this piece backing this week’s strike action at the […]

  3. nshgp

    Unsurprisingly, it has been very difficult to plan ahead, budget, or save for time off, given the fluctuating nature of my earnings.
    Start a savings account.

  4. Cole

    NHSGP (who probably isn’t) is just a right wing provocateur and loony.

  5. Strike at Royal Mail subsidiary over 'gig economy' conditions | Left Foot Forward

    […] yesterday – as reported by Left Foot Forward – of activist Mike Hutchinson after he wrote for us about the forthcoming […]

Comments are closed.