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Bicycle courier takes workers' rights fight to tribunal

Published 22/11/2016

The case comes less than a month after online taxi firm Uber lost a legal battle over employment rights
The case comes less than a month after online taxi firm Uber lost a legal battle over employment rights

A bicycle courier is launching a case for employment rights in a bid to transform her life "for the better".

Maggie Dewhurst, 29, from London, wants courier company CitySprint to recognise her as a "worker" and not an "independent contractor".

Ms Dewhurst is supported by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), which says courier companies have been denying their workers rights such as holiday pay and entitlement to the minimum wage.

The tribunal, expected to begin in central London on Wednesday, comes less than a month after online taxi firm Uber lost a legal battle in which two drivers successfully argued that they were employees rather than self-employed independent operators.

Ms Dewhurst said: "I'm taking this action because I have personal experience of, and know many courier friends earn below the National Minimum Wage.

"Our lives tend to be thrown into financial chaos when we want to go on holiday.

"Worker status will finally redress some of the balance between couriers and courier companies, and transform our lives for the better.

"These benefits have for too long been withheld by courier companies and only serve to make it easier for them to exploit their workforce.

"It is time to afford couriers some basic employment rights."

The IWGB said it submitted Ms Dewhurst's case with three other cases against three other companies - Addison Lee, Excel and eCourier.

IWGB general secretary Dr Jason Moyer-Lee said the tribunal decided that all four cases would be heard at different times but by the same judge and he described Ms Dewhurst's tribunal as the "lead case".

He added: "With this case we intend to expose the unlawful behaviour of the UK's courier companies.

"These companies have been denying their workers paid holiday, entitlement to minimum wage, and other rights for years.

"Like the Uber case, this case is about big companies bogusly classifying its workers as independent contractors and we intend to put an end to that practice."

The landmark Uber ruling sparked wider debate about the so-called "gig economy" - an environment where short-term jobs are common, and an advantage is said to be flexibility, while a drawback is the lack of predictability in income.

This week, HM Revenue and Customs was being urged to launch an investigation into tax and pay at Uber, with the GMB union saying HMRC should exercise its legal responsibility for enforcement of the minimum wage laws and collection of taxes.

A CitySprint spokesman said: "We can confirm we have received notification of a tribunal claim. As you will appreciate, due to the legal process we cannot comment any further on this at this stage."

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