Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Employment Practices at Freight Courier under Scrutiny after Uber Ruling

Legal Action Launched by Union against Logistics Company
Shipping News Feature
UK – Following on from the landmark ruling against taxi booking giant Uber over the rights of the company's workers the GMB union is launching legal action against freight courier Hermes on behalf of eight of the company's drivers who are allegedly being denied their workers' rights. A complaint has been launched with the Employment Tribunal by solicitors Leigh Day.

The issue under review is the legality of companies that class their drivers as ‘self-employed’. The GMB alleges that in classifying their couriers as self-employed, Hermes avoid giving them basic rights such as holiday pay and the national living wage.

By using self-employed drivers, now called in common parlance the ‘gig economy’, the union says that companies substantially reduce their running costs by paying drivers on a job-by-job basis with drivers only getting paid for the jobs actually undertaken for the company. The case is often made that such workers could work for other organisations and, as such, are not guaranteed the same rights as dedicated employees, such as a minimum wage or holiday and sick pay.

Now however, unions argue that the situation is being exploited and used as a way for companies to simply force drivers into working excessive hours for less than their lawfully protected wages. In October the GMB won a potentially ground-breaking legal victory against Uber which ruled that the company, which also designated its drivers as self-employed and not employees, was obliged to pay at least the national minimum wage and holiday pay to its drivers, as well as providing other statutory benefits. Uber is currently appealing the result, but the Court’s ruling has opened the floodgates to a string of cases that the GMB is now raising on behalf of members. Maria Ludkin, GMB Legal Director, said:

“GMB will fight bogus self-employment and exploitative practices whenever and wherever we can. Under the false claims of ‘flexibility’ Hermes seems to think it’s acceptable to wriggle out of treating its workers with respect. Guaranteed hours, sick pay, pension contributions, these aren’t privileges to be bestowed when companies feel like it, they are the legal right of all UK workers.”

In November a report by Labour’s Frank Field MP was referred to business minister Margot James, who in turn passed it to the Prime Minister whilst requesting HM Revenue & Customs to investigate the matter in which 78 Hermes drivers complained they were paid below the minimum wage. After enquiries from our office no one at Hermes was prepared to comment on the matter at this time.