London cycling instructors demand Mayor end “deteriorating conditions” in sector

In an open letter, London cycling instructors are demanding an end to "gig economy" contracts.

London cycling instructors working for local authorities are demanding an improvement in their pay and working conditions.

In an open letter, the newly-formed Independent Workers Union of Great Britain’s (IWGB) Cycle Instructors Branch are asking Sadiq Khan and councils to end “gig economy” contracts and “deteriorating conditions” in the sector.

The letter was sent on Tuesday to the London Mayor, Cycling and Walking Commissioner Will Norman, 32 London Borough Councils, and the main cycle training contractors.

The union is arguing that cycle training is essential in the Mayor’s own Vision Zero plan to reduce road deaths and injuries as well as in tackling the rising congestion and emission crises.

Cycling instructors also provide Safe Urban Driving courses to Transport for London drivers as well as  truck and van drivers.

But the instructors are highlighting that as their responsibilities have increased, wages have stagnated for a decade, with some rates falling as low as £12.50/hour – £7.50 an hour lower than 10 years ago.

Among their concerns are “increasingly disjointed and unpredictable” cancellation policies, a rise in the cost of required training, insurance and documentation and the “gig economy” abuses inherent  in the being hired as independent contractors model.

Additionally, they are raising the alarm on the safety risk of stretched instructor-client ratios and being asked to carry out tasks they’re not qualified for, including the risk assessment and risk management of children in on-road training drills.

The instructors’ demands include their pay rates being protected from the contract tendering process, being given worker status with all accompanying benefits and their training being paid by the companies.

They are also asking that the re-certification cost of the recently reviewed Bikeability Scheme be covered by TFL, the Bikeability Trust, the Department of Transport or the provider company.

The letter is calling for a renewed commitment to safety and for instructors to have a voice in future transport developments across London.

Michael McSherry, Chair of the IWGB’s Cycle Instructors Branch said: “Until now, there has been no voice representing instructors and as a result conditions have deteriorated to a point where many are having difficulty making it to the end of the month.

“Often whole weeks of classes are cancelled with only two days notice and instructors lose out on hundreds of pounds in earnings. The outsourcing model used by almost all of the boroughs has an inevitable downward pressure on wages, on quality and on safety.

“The Mayor has to ask himself if he is willing to gamble the safety of Londoners on this broken system or if he will implement the modest changes we are asking for.”

Sophia Dourou is a freelance journalist

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