A survey of 100 couriers conducted by the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) highlights endemic harassment and abuse of gig workers. 9 in 10 couriers said they have endured harassment at work, with almost two thirds reporting physical assault. Nearly half (44 percent) of respondents say they are harassed or verbally abused at least once every week. The survey also found that BAME, women and non-binary workers are disproportionately affected. Of the BAME respondents, 6 in 10 report being subjected to verbal abuse at least once a week and physical violence at least once a month. By contrast, 16% of white/undisclosed respondents said they are subjected to physical violence at least once a month, with 38% reporting verbal abuse at least once a week.
Responding to the data, the IWGB is calling on all so-called ‘gig economy’ corporations to take responsibility for workers’ safety. 30 percent of respondents reported incidents to the app they were working for at the time and were universally critical about the corporations’ response. Most say their reports were ignored or promises to investigate subsequently broken.
John Kirk, BAME Officer, Couriers & Logistics Branch (IWGB) says: “This survey provides evidence for what we long suspected was the case – that couriers suffer abuse at unacceptable rates, and that already marginalised BAME couriers, who comprise a majority of the workforce, endure this abuse even more acutely. Courier companies who repeatedly make statements expressing concern for the wellbeing of their workers need to look at this data and understand that whatever they think they are currently doing to protect them is entirely insufficient.”
Since IWGB Deliveroo riders led strike action in April they have continued to demand that the corporation take action on harassment and discrimination, offer rider support and allow couriers to refuse unsafe work without penalty. At present most apps – including Deliveroo – impose automatic penalties on couriers who refuse a job, even if it is to deliver to a business where they have been assaulted or abused in the past.
Jordan Harrison*, courier based in Manchester, said: “I’ve been punched in the face while working, I get harassed in the street every week. Sometimes it’s transphobic abuse, sometimes because I’m autistic, sometimes it feels completely random. Gig economy corporations treat us like we’re disposable so other people follow suit. It just feels like part of the job at this point. I don’t bother telling the company I work for because I know they won’t do anything. We’re not employees so as far as they are concerned, they don’t have any responsibility for us. You can’t even get a human being to talk to on the phone.”
Following the murder of IWGB member Gabriel Bringye while on a job for Bolt in February, the IWBG conducted a similar survey for private hire drivers in which 7 in 10 drivers said they have been physically assaulted while working.
The survey remains open to all couriers in the UK, who are invited to participate.
* Jordan’s name has been changed at their request to protect their anonymity.
Image by IWGB