Medical couriers at The Doctors Laboratory vote in favour of pay deal

TDL protests

Medical couriers employed by pathology services provider The Doctors Laboratory (TDL) and who are members of the trade union the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), have voted in favour of a new pay deal, applicable for couriers who are classified either as workers or as employees.

TDL employs couriers that are defined as either employees or as limb (b) workers, a category of self-employment that entitles workers to employment rights, such as the minimum wage and holiday pay.

The deal enables those on worker status to choose whether they want to be paid per hour rather than per delivery, to increase pay security, and provides an additional payment of 20p to 40p per mile, depending on the vehicle, to help cover travel expenses.

Couriers classified as employees will receive an employer-provided push bike, motorbike or van, with a fuel card to cover petrol costs, while night shifts performed between 10.00pm and 7.00am will be paid at an enhanced rate of pay, set 12.5% higher than employees’ normal day rate.

The agreed deal further guarantees that couriers’ working hours will not be cut as a result of the new contracts being implemented, that TDL will review the deal in six months’ time and that the organisation will introduce annual pay reviews.

The pay offer is a result of strike action undertaken by IWGB members employed by TDL in May 2019; industrial action was also scheduled for 25 and 26 June 2019, but this has now been cancelled.

In June 2017, TDL was found to have wrongly classified its couriers as independent, self-employed contractors; affected staff were not able to access the rights employees’ are entitled to, such as the minimum wage and holiday pay.

Correctly identifying couriers as employees enabled IWGB to create a collective bargaining unit in order to negotiate on pay; this covers all couriers, including walkers, push bike couriers, motorbike riders and van drivers. This was secured in spring 2018 after a ruling by the Central Arbitration Committee.

Couriers at TDL deliver emergency blood and pathology samples to more than 30 NHS hospitals situated in London and the South East, as well as some private hospitals and clinics.

IWGB is also representing 45 couriers at TDL in a holiday pay claim, which is being heard by the Central London Employment Tribunal next week.

Alex Marshall, couriers and logistics branch chair at IWGB and courier at TDL, said: “After a grueling campaign, we have managed to drag TDL to the negotiating table and agree on a deal that gives us some security when it comes to our earnings.

“Through our organising effort of the last two years, we have also managed to transform the workplace and stop the chronic bullying that was previously so common. This victory shows that by staying united and campaigning together, it is possible to reverse the race to the bottom inherent in the business models of so many so-called ‘gig economy’ employers.”

A spokesperson from TDL said: “We were pleased the IWGB agreed to return to the table earlier this month. Discussions were productive and we were able to renegotiate TDL’s original pay offer and reach an agreement that works for both parties.

“Our couriers are valued members of our workforce and we look forward to open communication and positive working relationships in the future.”