Bike Couriers Launch Legal Fight over Workers’ Rights

Bike Couriers Launch Legal Fight over Workers’ Rights
Four bicycle couriers are taking their companies to a tribunal in a bid to get employed workers’ rights, including paid holidays and the minimum wage. If successful, the case could have a huge impact on the growing number of workers who are being wrongly categorised as self-employed.

The couriers are considered self-employed contractors despite working for one firm for about 50 hours a week. The courier companies say the tribunal claims are unfounded.

The often-long working day of a London courier involves weaving through the city’s crowded and congested streets in the saddle covering 60 to 70 miles, to be normally paid between £2 and £3 per delivery, depending on distance.

At the employment tribunal, the four London couriers will seek a declaration that they are either “employed” or “workers”, which would entitle them to benefits and rights.

Among them is Andrew Boxer, who works for Excel. “I am typical,” he said. “I work for one company for around 50 hours a week. They tell me what to do, when to do it and how to do it. “I am monitored, have to have company ID with me at all times, and can’t take work from other companies. I get paid per delivery, not per hour. I am required to sign a contract which says that I am self-employed, which means I don’t get any employment rights.”

Excel responded, saying: “Within the London market, couriers operate as independent sub-contractors and I am confident that any tribunal will uphold this view.”

Another courier, Mario Gbobo, fell off his bike and was left with a long and nasty scar on his arm. “The parcel I was carrying was insured, but I wasn’t,” he said. “Someone came and collected the parcel. I had to fend for myself and ended up returning to work before the injury healed because I needed the money.”

The couriers are taking Excel, as well as City Sprint, Addison Lee and eCourier, to an employment tribunal with the support of their union, the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain.

The union’s president, Jason Moyer-Lee, said: “Employers are taking advantage of the power imbalance and forcing the couriers to accept a job with zero employment rights. The couriers should be like all other workers and have the right to the minimum wage and paid holidays, among other things.”

If the tribunal supports their view, it could prove to be a landmark case.

An estimated 4.8 million people in the UK are self-employed, and the TUC said it has seen a growing number of industries, from hairdressing to food production, choosing to categorise workers as self-employed.

However, a survey by Citizens Advice last August suggested that as many as 460,000 people could be “bogusly self-employed”, and therefore would be missing out on all of the rights that an employed person is entitled to.

The barrister representing the couriers, Jason Galbraith-Marten QC, believes their case could have a significant impact on the modern labour market.

“Couriers have been told that they are self-employed and they are put on contracts that describe them as self-employed,” he said. “A win for them would mean that a court had looked at the true circumstances under which they are working, and decided that they are not truly self-employed.  And that means others in similar circumstances can go to a court and say, ‘it doesn’t matter what it says on the contract, I am in fact a worker and can I have the same rights?” he added.

City Sprint said it believed the assertions regarding the employment status of their courier fleet were “unfounded”. “We’re very proud of our fleet and offer them the opportunity to achieve among the highest earnings in the industry,” a spokesman said.

Addison Lee said it would not comment on this ongoing litigation, and eCourier said it has not been legally notified from the tribunal about any claim for fairer work contracts.

Barack Obama: UK More Effective at Fighting Terror Inside EU

Barack Obama: UK More Effective at Fighting Terror Inside EU
The UK’s ability to fight terrorism will be “more effective” if it sticks together with its European allies, US President Barack Obama has said. Writing in the Daily Telegraph Mr Obama also said being inside the EU magnified Britain’s influence across the world.

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The president arrived for a three-day visit of the UK late on Thursday.

But writing in the Sun, Vote Leave’s Boris Johnson said President Obama’s view was “a breath taking example of the principle do-as-I-say-but-not-as-I-do”.

Before meeting David Cameron for talks later, the president and First Lady Michelle Obama will attend a private lunch with the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh at Windsor Castle – the day after the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry have also invited the Obamas to have dinner with them at Kensington Palace on Friday evening.

The president’s intervention in the UK’s forthcoming EU referendum on 23 June has been hotly debated and sparked claims of “hypocrisy” from those who want to leave the EU. However, in his newspaper piece President Obama recognised that ultimately the matter was for British voters to decide for themselves. But he also said: “The outcome of your decision is a matter of deep interest to the United States.

“The tens of thousands of Americans who rest in Europe’s cemeteries are a silent testament to just how intertwined our prosperity and security truly are.  And the path you choose now will echo in the prospects of today’s generation of Americans as well.”

BBC North America editor John Sopel said the president had not needed to make his intervention and could have been much more nuanced.  “That he has is a mark of the profound concern felt in Washington about the implications of a British departure from the EU,” he said.

The president said that the US’s relationship with the UK had been “forged as we spilt blood together on the battlefield”. He went on: “The European Union doesn’t moderate British influence – it magnifies it. A strong Europe is not a threat to Britain’s global leadership; it enhances Britain’s global leadership.”

He said the UK had benefitted from being inside the EU in terms of jobs, trade and financial growth.

“This kind of co-operation – from intelligence sharing and counter-terrorism to forging agreements to create jobs and economic growth – will be far more effective if it extends across Europe. Now is a time for friends and allies to stick together,” he wrote.

James Rubin, US secretary of state from 1997 to 2000, told BBC Breakfast the president had not offered any words of reassurance about Britain’s future relationship with the US if it left the EU because “it won’t be OK”.

“We have a phrase in America: ‘Friends don’t let friends drive drunk,'” he said, adding that it would be “a big mistake for Britain to leave the EU and set asunder what has been a very successful relationship”.

But Boris Johnson described Mr Obama’s argument as “inconsistent” and “downright hypocritical”. “The Americans would never contemplate anything like the EU for themselves or for their neighbours in their own hemisphere. Why should they think it right for us?” And Mr Johnson described the notion that the UK had more influence inside the EU than outside as “nonsense”. “The UK has been outvoted 40 times in Brussels in the last five years, and the total bill for those defeats – in extra costs for UK government and business – is put at £2.4bn a year,” Mr Johnson wrote.

Tory MP Iain Duncan Smith, who is also part of the Vote Leave campaign, accused Mr Obama of double standards.

“I can imagine no circumstances under which he would lobby for the US Supreme Court to be bound by the judgements of a foreign court,” he said. Nor can I imagine any circumstances in which he would accept that laws should be made for ­- or taxes imposed on­ – the people of the United States without the approval of Congress.”

Mr Obama’s UK stay is part of a tour taking in Germany and Saudi Arabia, which he left on Thursday after having discussions with King Salman on issues including Iran, Syria, Yemen and the fight against so-called Islamic State militants.
Mr Obama arrived at Stansted Airport late on Thursday and was greeted by the Lord Lieutenant of Essex, John Petre, and the US Ambassador to the UK, Matthew Barzun.

The Obamas previously met the Queen, Prince Philip and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during their state visit in 2011.

British Men have Dangerously Low Prostate Awareness

British Men have Dangerously Low Prostate Awareness
British men are dangerously ignorant of the prostate gland, according to a men’s health charity. It is crucial for sex as it helps produce semen and is involved in ejaculation. But it is also the leading cause of cancer in men, with 40,000 diagnosed each year, Prostate Cancer UK says.

A survey by the charity showed nearly one in five men did not even know they had a prostate and men were “blind” to the risk of cancer.

The gland, which is about the size of a walnut, sits below the bladder and in front of the rectum. It produces the fluid that nourishes sperm.

The survey of 1,900 men found:
> 92% were clueless about the gland’s role
> 54% did not know where it was
> 17% did not know they had a prostate

Prostate Cancer UK chief executive Angela Culhane, told the BBC News website: “Men are very ignorant about prostate cancer and it’s dangerous because it is actually the most common cancer in men. “The things it does affect – ejaculation and sexual function, urine flow and incontinence – are not regularly talked about over the dinner table or in the pub.”

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Male anatomy Image copyright Prostate Cancer UK

Nearly 11,000 men die from prostate cancer each year. It can have few symptoms in the early stages, and because of its location most symptoms are linked to urination:

> needing to urinate more often, especially at night
> needing to run to the toilet
> difficulty in starting to urinate
> weak urine flow or taking a long time while urinating
> feeling your bladder has not emptied fully

Ms Culhane said: “A man in his 30s with none of the risk factors shouldn’t be overly worried – but for men at higher risk, they should have a conversation with their GP or one of our specialist nurses.If they have a family history, are black [black men are twice as likely to develop prostate cancer as the overall population] or are over 50, then, generally, they should be thinking about having a conversation. As a country, we need to wake up and stop men dying needlessly.  Ignoring prostate cancer won’t beat it – only fighting it will.”

Former England and Newcastle United footballer Les Ferdinand, who saw his grandfather suffer with the disease at the end of his life, said: “I’m not surprised so many men don’t know what their prostate does – it’s an easy gland to ignore.

“In fact, until prostate cancer affected my family, my knowledge of the prostate was pretty slim. Don’t ignore the statistics and don’t ignore your risk. Join the fight to beat the disease.”