Socialist Worker

Fight the Tories to win workers’ rights

Issue No. 2590

People working for Deliveroo are classed as self-employed

People working for Deliveroo are classed as self-employed (Pic: shopblocks/Flickr)


A new battle over zero hours contracts and other work practices is set to take off. 

The government is expected to respond to the Taylor Review on Modern Employment Practices which came out last July.  

When it came out there was widespread derision.

“Wishy-washy” and “full of vacuous fluff,” said Jason Moyer-Lee, general secretary of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, which had help win improvements for Deliveroo bicycle delivery couriers in London.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called it a “huge missed opportunity”.

Inquiry chief Matthew Taylor, former head of Tony Blair’s policy unit,  said, “The message to employers is there is nothing to fear from this.” 

The review looked into the status of workers by examining the three legal categories of employment—“employee”, “worker” and “self-employed”.

People working in the so-called gig economy such as parts of the construction industry, for courier firms such as Deliveroo and for taxi firms such as Uber, are often classified as self-employed.

This means their bosses don’t have to pay national insurance contributions or sick pay.

Forced

A series of employment tribunal rulings have found that workers in bogus self-employment should be classified as workers. That fight forced the Taylor Review to take place.

The review suggested that the Tories introduce a “dependent contractor”, essentially a revamp of he existing “worker” status in employment law that comes with fewer rights than that of “employee”. 

The TUC now estimates that at least 1.8 million workers are at risk of missing out on rights including redundancy pay, protection against unfair dismissal, and the right to return to a job after having a child because they are in insecure employment.

Many more are missing out on rights because their bosses have wrongly classified them as self-employed, unions believe.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady says, "The insecure work free-for-all has to end.

"Agency workers are being treated like second-class citizens, getting less pay for the same work and zero-hours contracts leave many workers unable to plan childcare or budget for their weekly shop.

"This will be a real test of Theresa May's government. Does she even have a domestic agenda anymore?"

Equal

The TUC is calling on the Government to ban zero-hours contracts, ensure equal pay for agency workers, crack down on bogus self-employment and increase resources and powers for enforcement.

But none of that will happen without resistance. The unions could recruit lots of workers in new industries and lots of young workers.

But it will take serious organisation and struggle.

That’s why it is very important to give full solidarity to battles like the Birmingham home care workers, on strike on 6 February, and every struggle that shows workers can organise and win.

Labour has to pledge full rights for all workers from day one of employment, and abolition of the anti-union laws that hold back the strength that can confront employers.


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