As a worker in the “gig economy”, as a Hermes courier, I know only too well the reality of the emerging world of work – and have first-hand experience of the bad work that is increasingly widespread in our economy. Taylor provides backing for “worker” status, citing recent case law such as the case taken by GMB against Uber which argued that the company’s drivers are not self-employed, but workers. The tribunal agreed. GMB successfully argued that Uber drivers are workers, and therefore entitled to basic rights such as the minimum wage, holiday pay and sick pay.
Taylor takes this worker status and argues it should be reclassified as that of ‘designated contractor’ – somewhere between self-employed and employed status. Whilst this should be welcome, his review makes some concerning suggestions that would let gig economy firms off the hook. Taylor suggests if an individual “knowingly chooses to work through a platform at times of low demand, then he or she should take some responsibility for this decision” – going on to state a “mean hourly output rate” should be stated ahead of time. This raises the risk of workers being forced into being paid less than the minimum wage.
Though he argues care should be taken to “avoid abuse” – and that individuals should be free to choose whether or not to accept individual jobs this means “dependant contractors” should look at the work offered and if it’s only £5 per hour on offer from the gig company then if we take the job we have no comeback on the company. The excuse may be that it’s a “quiet time”. In practice, he have little right to refuse without putting our chances of working in the future in jeopardy.
As a Hermes courier, I find Taylor’s suggestion ridiculous. It gives the likes of Hermes a legitimate excuse not to pay couriers correctly for the work they do – and may in fact allow such companies to reduce pay even more. In practice, we are not free to accept or individual jobs without fear of being penalised. What legislation is the Taylor report wanting put in place along side this suggestion to protect workers who refuse work based on the fact that the pay is too low? Working for Hermes, if there is no protection for workers who refuse work based on low pay will just allow such companies to “sack” workers who do not take low paid work. This could force down pay and decrease our pay even more and I feel plays into the hands of those companies who have and are subverting the current laws as part of their business models.
Why give these companies even more ideas on how to reduce wages? Why give these companies more rights to reduce wages and reduce our workers’ rights by saying if we accept low pay we have no right to contest it? It’s slippery slope that many companies I believe will exploit, working for Hermes I am on the receiving end of scheme after scheme to rip off couriers, giving them more opportunity is a huge mistake.
It is now more important than ever that Hermes couriers think seriously about joining a union like the GMB as their support and representation will be vital as changes in working practices take place.
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