- Created: Thursday, 10 August 2017 15:28
- Written by Barnaby Philips
On 11 July the government published the Taylor review into modern working practices. Matthew Taylor had promised ‘to tell Theresa May what’s wrong’ with the fast-growing ‘gig economy’, but unsurprisingly – given that he is a former adviser to Tony Blair’s Labour government – the report does not seriously address the lack of rights, insecurity and low pay that comes with casualised labour.
Taylor said he would find the answers ‘to make zero-hours flexibility or self-employment work for ordinary people’. His major proposal is the creation of a new employment status called ‘dependent contractor’, an intermediary status between ‘employee’ and ‘worker’, covering casual, independent relationships with a limited set of key employment rights applying, such as holiday and sick pay.
The review panel, made up of an employment solicitor from a corporate law firm and a former Deliveroo investor who only sold his stake in the company four months before the review began, did not include any trade union or worker representation. Taylor refused to meet with the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB), who described the review as ‘vacuous fluff’ full of legal errors, from the suggestion that ‘workers’ are not a category of self-employed, to the suggestion that employers are normally required to make national insurance contributions on behalf of ‘workers’ and not just ‘employees’. The panel therefore refused to challenge the false claim of Deliveroo founder Will Shu that the law prevents him from giving workers decent rights and pay.
The IWGB, with whom Deliveroo workers have been organising, made three key demands that were ignored by Taylor: rigorous government enforcement of existing employment law, with punitive fines to deter unlawful behaviour; the abolition of employment tribunal fees, which have caused a near 70% decline in cases; and access to employment rights currently enjoyed only by ‘employees’ for all ‘workers’.
The second of those demands has now been addressed after a landmark victory for workers on 27 July. In a case brought by Unison, which argued that employment tribunal fees discriminated against women and other groups of workers, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the coalition government had acted unlawfully and unconstitutionally when it introduced them four years ago. The government will now have to take immediate steps to stop charging fees of up to £1,200. It will also have to refund more than £27m to thousands of workers who have been charged for taking claims against illegal treatment by employers to tribunal since 2013.
The RCG welcomes this victory and urges all workers to organise and support the fight for full employment rights.
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 259 August/September 2017