Courier service described as ‘the last great unregulated industry in Britain’ as workers unionise to fight for fair pay

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Bicycle couriers working for the UK’s leading same-day courier service kicked off their campaign for an increase in pay this morning (Tuesday 9) with a noisy demonstration in Shoreditch.

Armed with vuvuzela horns, whistles, a number of large red flags, and the support of Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, around 60 protesters gathered outside the Scrutton Street offices of CitySprint to demand the courier firm pay them the London Living Wage of £9.15 per hour.

The protest was organised by the newly-formed Couriers Branch of the Independent Workers Union (IWGB), a small trade union representing mainly migrant workers in low-paid employment.

CitySprint, which delivers to a number of major corporations and companies including Goldman Sachs, Santander, the Guardian newspaper and the BBC, pays per job and charges its self-employed couriers £24 a week to work there.

Earning as little as £1.25 per delivery, couriers say they are forced to complete as many as 25 jobs a day to make ends meet.

Working between nine and 10 hours daily, couriers travel between 50 and 60 miles during a working day. They receive no operating expenses, sick-pay, paid holidays or pensions, and claim CitySprint has not raised their rates in more than 15 years.

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Nick Swindon, a CitySprint courier and the Vice Chairman of the IWGB’s Couriers Branch, described the courier service as “the last great unregulated industry in Britain”.

“We risk our lives every day and companies like CitySprint, like every other courier company in London, exploit us to make massive profits and they do not share the wealth. That’s what we want, we want a fair share,” he said.

According to Swindon, as CitySprint is the market leader, their decisions affect the entire courier market. “What they do, other companies follow, it’s a race to the bottom.”

Another CitySprint courier Jon, who wished to be known only by his first name, said that couriers have been “pushed to a point of necessity”. He said: “We’ve had a lot of support, from loads of different places. This is the start of something big, and something that is going to continue to go on until we eventually win.”

Natalie Bennett, giving a rousing speech to the protesters, said a living wage should be a human right. “Being able to meet your basic needs with a decent income, that should be a human right, and that’s what you’re fighting for!” she said.

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CitySprint ‘proud of fleet’

In a statement, CitySprint said it was “proud of its fleet” and stressed that its couriers are all self-employed.

The company rejected the claim that they do not pay their couriers the equivalent of the London Living Wage and called the payment rates quoted by the union “misleading”.

A spokesperson said: “Average hourly income for our pushbike couriers is £10.48, which is 14.5 per cent higher than the London Living Wage at £9.15, based on being available on circuit for a minimum of eight hours.

“Furthermore, our analysis showed that the average pushbike courier earnings over the past three years have increased by 15 per cent.

Commenting on CitySprint’s calculation of average hourly income, one of the CitySprint couriers said that CitySprint had not factored in the nine to ten hour days that couriers work.

Also responding CitySprint’s statement, the President of the IWGB union Jason Moyer-Lee called the claims “ludicrous” and “bogus”.

Natalie Bennett said: “They’re working on averages, but what we’re talking about is a minimum standard.”

Gustaf Kilander
Tuesday 9 June 2015

Bicycle couriers protest over pay outside CitySprint’s Shoreditch office

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