Union plans legal action over lack of pay help for gig economy and self-employed

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Legal action is being planned against the government over claims that it has failed to protect the wages and jobs of millions of workers, including those in the gig economy, during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) said the current £94.25-a-week Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) arrangement discriminates against women, gig economy and minority ethnic workers for whom these payments are not enough to survive or in some cases not available at all.

The union said it will argue that the 80% wage subsidies offered by the government to businesses to keep people employed discriminate against gig economy and other self-employed workers, who are not included in this scheme.

Linda Arteaga, a cleaner and member of the IWGB’s Cleaners and Facilities branch, said: “I work as a cleaner and I am a widowed single mother. As important as it may be to self-isolate, having to live for half a month on £94.25 per week would make my life impossible.

“I would have to choose between buying food for my family and following the government’s health advice to protect the public.”

Greg Howard, a Deliveroo rider and secretary of the IWGB’s Couriers and Logistics branch, said: “While other workers are being offered some assistance during the Covid-19 pandemic, as a ‘gig economy’ worker I am being refused even the most basic protections.

“While the government expects workers such as myself to provide essential services during this crisis, if I am sick or if the company I work for has to downsize, I’ll be driven into deeper hardship. The law has to change so that it protects all workers.”

IWGB general secretary Dr Jason Moyer-Lee said: “Many low-paid and precarious workers are on the front lines of this crisis, distributing food, delivering medical samples, cleaning buildings and looking after children in need, yet they have the least protection.

“Many who become sick or need to self-isolate will receive little or no sick pay. Others who are laid off will not receive wage subsidies from the government because they are not employees.

“No-one wants to be litigating right now, but we also cannot stand by while our members are exposed to unnecessary risk or driven into destitution.”

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