Sheffield woman's swim challenge in aid of couriers' trade union dispute

A Sheffield woman is doing a wild swim every day in January to raise money for a strike fund to support a couriers’ dispute.

Monday, 18th January 2021, 2:37 pm

Hannah Thompson has organised the fundraiser on the GoFundMe website to back the South Yorkshire Courier's Network Strike Fund.

She is supporting the IWGB Couriers Network, a member-led union which has successfully taken on rogue courier firms and multi-million-pound companies.

Couriers have also taken action against restaurant owners who subject them to abusive behaviour.

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Fundraiser Hannah Thompson on one of her wild water swims

Hannah, who lives in Nether Edge, said: “I'd heard about the couriers’ struggle through friends involved in the IWGB union, then met workers and reps on picket lines who were furious about the way they were being treated.

"I did a bit of courier work years ago and I know what it's like to work hand-to-mouth - it's exhausting and humiliating.

"The pandemic has made precarious employment even more exploitative; employers dismiss workers without notice for any hint of protest and losing your job right now is a frightening prospect.

“There are a lot of people suffering this January, this fundraiser gives me focus and I hope will make a positive difference.”

Hannah said she swims in local spots such as Crookes Valley Park, Rivelin Plunge pool, a quiet section of the Sheaf and at Redmires.

She said on her page: “Covid 19 has made demonstrations, pickets and face-to-face meetings difficult or impossible. It has also hit key workers in precarious employment very hard.

“By getting in cold water every day, I hope to spread the word about the couriers’ struggle against poverty wages, verbal and physical abuse, exploitative working conditions and unfair dismissal.

“The workers on bicycles, mopeds and cars that drop off your takeaway generally work for tech giants like Deliveroo or Uber Eats.

“As well as dropping off your pizza, couriers also deliver groceries and essential supplies to the most vulnerable people.“Couriers have not been furloughed, given sick pay or holiday pay, and they have worked through the pandemic since day one.”Hannah said that Deliveroo couriers are paid less than £4 per delivery in Sheffield.

She explained that by misclassifying employees as independent contractors, companies can pay below the minimum wage while expecting couriers to cover the costs of petrol, vehicle maintenance and parking fees.

Couriers have also taken action against restaurant owners who subject them to abusive behaviour.

Hannah said: “Couriers have been refused access to toilets by giant fast food chains (despite health and safety law), have faced racist and contemptuous bullying by restaurants, and even verbal and physical abuse from customers once they get deliveries to the door.

“If workers complain or try to organise, Uber and Deliveroo dismiss them without warning or due process.”

She urged people to donate to the strike fund because couriers are on low, insecure pay and need financial support to take part in industrial action where they will lose income.