https://www.theguardian.com/business/20 ... iFIfazz6Qs
The parcel firm DPD has threatened to sue a trade union that represents its couriers for supporting a planned walkout on Saturday and Sunday that would disrupt Black Friday deliveries.
This weekend will be one of the busiest of the year for deliveries, with Britons expected to spend £1.5bn on online purchases on Friday – a 13% increase on last year. Millions of parcels will be brought by self-employed workers who are paid per parcel delivered and have no right to the minimum wage or holiday pay.
Lawyers for DPD told Tim Roache, the general secretary of the GMB, that the company would hold the union liable for losses arising during the busiest delivery period of the year if it continued to encourage the action, involving dozens of delivery couriers at the Cambuslang depot in Glasgow, in protest at pay cuts and working conditions in the gig economy. The union’s Scottish branch has indicated other actions could follow in other parts of the country.
In effect it means DPD will not recognise the planned collective action by couriers as a trade dispute because they are gig workers. DPD, which delivers for retailers including Amazon, Asos and John Lewis, says the union is unlawfully interfering with its business and argues it is not protected by trade union laws because it considers its couriers to be contractors rather than workers with employment rights.
Its lawyers said the union was well aware of the terms of owner-driver franchisee agreements and was trying to breach those agreements “with the intent to cause significant financial loss to the company”.
“You are well aware that December is the busiest month of the year for our client,” the lawyers said.
Couriers based at Cambuslang say their parcel rates have been cut, they are being pressured to work this weekend under threat of not receiving future work, and contracts have been amended to give the company the right to review rates every six months.
This weekend’s planned walkout, described by DPD as unlawful strike action, looks likely to go ahead. But GMB has acquiesced to DPD’s demand that it withdraws its support in a memo to members.
GMB told members they would be in breach of their service agreements with DPD if they walked out, that they could individually be held financially liable if they did not work and that their service agreement could be terminated. It said it did not support any walkout and withdrew any earlier indication of support.
One worker at the depot was defiant, saying about 30 people were still planning to walk out. “It’s 100% going ahead,” they said.
DPD has been approached for comment.