Protecting workers in the gig economy from Covid-19
The IWGB (Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain) is warning that in this time of the virus many of its members (who include delivery drivers, couriers and cleaners) in the gig economy are facing undue risks, without proper protection. The union is about to take court action to require the Government to enforce am EU directive (which is still in force) that protects the health and safety rights of gig economy workers.
The gig economy has expanded in recent years to such an extent that about one in every ten adults are engaged. According to the IWGB that means 4.7 million workers in the UK.
The union points out that there is large-scale neglect by certain companies to provide testing and PPE (personal protective equipment) to workers who are delivering all sorts of goods essential for people’s wellbeing. These include deliveries of samples for coronavirus testing. In a letter to the Government the IWGB states.
“These workers have not been provided with advice or PPE of even the most basic sort, despite the fact that they are evidently exposed to a high risk of infection.”
The IWGB General Secretary, Jason Mower-Lee, said that delivery drivers fear that they would be dismissed if they raise their concerns at work.
The union asserts that the right to refuse to work in situations of imminent danger without fear of detriment or dismissal should be extended to gig economy workers.
The DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) responded to the union’s initial approach bypassing the letter to the HSE (Health and Safety Executive), which inspects workplaces. The HSE Chief Executive, Sarah Albon, wrote to the IWGB: “We are confident that the health and safety framework provides the necessary protection for workers, including those on non-standard contracts, and have no plans to amend the legislation.” A spokesperson added that the HSE is monitoring the situation closely. “As long as the duty of managing risks is undertaken diligently following the existing guidance, all of those who work should be reassured they can go home healthy and safe.”
The IWGB does not accept the unhelpful HSE response. The union is applying for a judicial review to require the Government to enforce the health and safety provisions pf EU law so as to protect hundreds of thousands of workers in the gig economy who are at enhanced risk in this time of the virus. Barristers have been appointed.
The union is asking for donations to crowdfund the judicial review.