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Key-worker couriers and local businesses ignored as Council puts livelihoods at risk

10 February 2021 01:05
  • Couriers and businesses left in the lurch by archaic and unfit city-centre access regulations
  • York IWGB access proposals shot down by transport executive, despite opposition from business owners, couriers, York Labour and union leaders
  • Precarious key workers left to choose between incurring ruinous fines and risking losing their livelihoods

Wednesday 10 February: The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) calls for City of York Council to reverse access restrictions that have been threatening the livelihoods of couriers and ‘gig economy’ workers.

City of York Council have failed to act on proposals to allow access to York’s city centre to cycle couriers. Plans drawn up by York IWGB were shelved at Tuesday 9th February’s decision session, in contradiction of the urgent needs of couriers, local businesses and York residents who have come to rely on delivery services during the pandemic.

York’s two-hundred strong workforce of gig-economy couriers have provided a vital service throughout the pandemic, delivering hot food, groceries and medicines to residents. They have done so despite declining pay, compounded by restrictions to access to the city-centre to collect orders. Delays in completing deliveries directly puts couriers in the firing line. The extension of (non-lockdown) pedestrianised hours last year from 5pm until 8pm - without consultation - has dealt a further blow.

York IWGB presented clear proposals for reform to City of York Council, in order to protect the livelihoods of these key-workers. But council leader Andy D’Agorne dismissed these, leaving couriers forced to choose between risking incurring £50 police fines and risking losing their jobs altogether. The council executives present, clearly taken aback at the strength of feeling at the session, had taken the unusual step to instantly rule out immediate action.

Local businesses, including restaurants, cafes and pubs, also desperately require access reform. Lockdown has left these outlets reliant almost entirely on couriers to make ends meet. They told the council today how restricting access hampers business, causing delays to delivery and poorer food quality. This directly puts jobs within hospitality at risk, at an already desperate time for the industry.

Support for the couriers also came from York Labour councillors. Rachel Melly highlighted “the ridiculous situation where cyclists have to dismount and walk [along the footstreets] while lorries and vans drive past them because they have a piece of paper to show at the barrier”. Pete Kilbane urged leaders to move swiftly: “the long grass doesn’t grow in the winter - we need action now”.

York Cycle Campaign are preparing to present their own proposals, to allow all cyclists access to key city-centre routes. York IWGB backs these plans, in order to protect the livelihoods of our members.

As the IWGB’s Clapped and Scrapped campaign has highlighted, riders can be sacked without warning due to even a handful of late deliveries. As gig-economy workers, these riders are denied access to the basic rights and protections that most take for granted. Companies such as Deliveroo, UberEats and Just Eat can dismiss these workers at will for the most minor of infractions. Our campaign has highlighted over one hundred cases of couriers being terminated with no due process, no right to appeal, and no trade union representation.

Ethan Bradley, York IWGB Comms Officer says: “Despite the strength of feeling from couriers, businesses, union leaders and opposition councillors, City of York Council have chosen to kick the question of reform into the long grass. This tone-deaf response ignores the needs of some of our city’s most precarious workers, as well as those of local independents struggling to survive this string of lockdowns. As much as Council leaders may want to stick their heads in the sand, our city’s workers and businesses made it clear today: we will not be ignored.”

Alex Marshall, IWGB President says: “We have seen over one hundred cases of app-based workers being fired for little to no reason since the start of the pandemic. These essential workers have provided a vital service throughout the pandemic and have been applauded for doing so by the public. Their companies have thanked them with pay cuts and terminations that are driving them to destitution. All this while bosses have remained safely at home watching their business boom. The council need to facilitate these key workers to do their jobs as efficiently as possible, not create unnecessary obstacles that put the livelihoods of these precarious workers in danger every single day.”


For more information, contact

Mark Montegriffo
07534 037 460 / [email protected]

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