Britain’s politicians have been debating what’s become known as the “gig economy”, and the problems it has been causing, for years now. 

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There have been seen select committee investigations and reports. Commissions have been set up, they’ve investigated, made recommendations, written reports. Their findings and suggestions have been kicked into the Whitehall long grass only to be brought back to suit political convenience. Legal actions have been launched. They’re mostly still on going.

While this has been going on a union – the GMB – had a sit down with an employer – Hermes – and hammered out a deal that looks like a better way of addressing one of the most pressing issues in the current UK labour market than anything anyone else has come up with to date. 

OK, that may be over simplifying just a bit. There were actually several sit downs and it didn’t happen overnight. But the process is much less important than the result, which has real potential. 

The delivery company’s self employed courtiers will in future be able to opt for what’s being called “self employed plus” status.

Those who sign up for it will secure benefits such as holiday pay (pro-rata up to 28 days), and individually negotiated pay rates that allow them to earn at minimum of £8.55 per hour through the course of a year. They will still earn if admin issues cause delays, as they are wont to do. 

In addition, those who join GMB will benefit from full representation. They would be wise to do so because it will strengthen the union's hand in future negotiations, and help it deepen the relationship that has been forged in the interests of its Hermes members. 

There’s no sick pay, and “self employed plus” couriers may not earn the max rates they could have under the existing set up, which will still be available to those who want to remain on it.

New drivers who opt for ‘plus’ status will also be required to accept routing software that dictates where they go first. 

Those who fit in couriering part time, doing a few hours in between other gigs, may not be suited by the new arrangement. 

But they now have a choice that they didn’t have previously, and if other issues emerge with the new arrangement, and the two sides pursue a cooperative relationship, these could be addressed.

It’s not perfect, but deals rarely are. What this one represents is, however, something new, and innovative. 

It is to the credit of all those involved, and an example of what can be achieved outside of a broken political system if people put their minds to it. And it has the potential to serve as a way forward for other companies operating on a similar model to Hermes which have come under sustained, and largely justified, attack in recent years. 

They would be advised to pick up the phone to GMB General Secretary Tim Roache and his people who’ll happily take calls. 

 

 

 

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