Addison Lee has been accused of “blacklisting” a gig economy worker because he had successfully sued a rival company for the right to the minimum wage and holiday pay.
Andrew Boxer was told by managers at the London-based private hire and courier company that he could not work when they realised he had won an employment tribunal case against Excel, according to his union.
They reportedly told Boxer they could not risk him taking a similar case against Addison Lee, which has a turnover of £260m, and asked: “Is there an ulterior motive [for why] you want to work here? Do you want to report back to the union?”
The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) said it would launch legal action against the company, alleging blacklisting and trade union victimisation.
The case comes amid a welter of legal challenges over employment rights for workers in the gig economy, of which there are about 1.1 million. It emerged this week that the government has delayed proposals to clarify the difference between genuine self-employment and worker status that attracts greater employment rights. Gig economy workers miss out on £22,000 each in employer pension contributions over a lifetime, according to a study released by Zurich Insurance on Wednesday.
On 6 November, Boxer said he was told he could start work, but at his induction three days later, he was told he could not.
“I was there, I was happy to work and I ticked all the boxes, but because I once fought for my rights and won, I was denied a job,” he said. “It was shocking.”
The IWGB has backed successful employment tribunal claims for gig economy workers at Uber, Excel and CitySprint. Chris Gascoigne, a cycle courier who is also a member of the union, won a case against Addison Lee in which a tribunal ruled that it should treat him as a worker and not an independent contractor.
According to the IWGB, the head of Addison Lee’s courier business, Kevin Valentine, told Boxer: “I’m not blacklisting you, I just think it’s insensitive that already we have Mr Gascoigne that is … taking us to the tribunal and to have someone else on our books that is also taking someone else to tribunal I think is a little bit insensitive.”
Boxer replied “I am just here to work”, to which Valentine said: “It’s a sensitive issue at the moment. It is in the public domain … It does put us in a very vulnerable position.”
The union said it has a recording of the exchange and later in the conversation, Boxer said: “Basically, you are just saying that because I have taken another company to court, you don’t want me.”
Valentine replied: “It costs the company a fortune. If we gotta fight you, we gotta fight Gascoigne, we gotta fight everybody else, at the end of the day.”
Jason Moyer-Lee, the general secretary of the IWGB, said: “Addison Lee has once again shown the extremes to which it is prepared to go in order to deny basic rights to its low-paid workers.
“They are punishing a courier for having the courage to claim his unpaid holidays and minimum wage. For this, Addison Lee will pay a heavy price.”
A spokesman for Addison Lee said: “Addison Lee is committed to fair and respectful treatment of all its contractors. Mr Boxer has never made a formal complaint to us. We are now reviewing the matter and it would be wrong to comment further until that review is complete.”