Delivery drivers are treated like slaves | Letters

Politicians are quick to condemn other nations that trample on workers’ rights but ignore it when it happens in the UK

Your article on the inhumane working conditions encountered by some of Britain’s numerous delivery drivers was shocking (“Driven to the edge: the hidden cost of our Christmas parcels”, Special report).

Expecting a person to use their work vehicle as a toilet or a place to eat (if they are lucky enough to have time to eat) is nothing short of modern-day slavery, not to mention unhygienic. Every working person, no matter what career choice they make, is entitled to basic employment rights. Multinational corporations, under the watchful eye of recent Conservative governments, have developed these cold-hearted working conditions that maximise profits and allow them to pay the minimum amount of corporation tax. One of the glaring realities of Brexit will be the continued undermining of unions like the GMB and the disregard for employment tribunal decisions that seek to protect workers’ rights. read more

Driven to the edge: life on the Christmas parcel delivery run

The festive shopping spree is in full swing, with Britain’s 35,000 couriers and delivery drivers at the sharp end, often working long hours with no breaks, low pay and few employee rights

Patrick Wilson’s* heavy eyelids drop momentarily as he parks on a steep terraced street on the suburban edges of north Bristol. He raises a fist to cover a deep, primal yawn that makes his whole body shudder with exhaustion. He has been on the go since 7.30am, when he filled every bit of free space in his battered VW people carrier with packages and bags from the likes of Amazon, M&S and Next. He hasn’t had time to take a break or go to the toilet and it’s now nearly 3pm. read more

City investors urge UK's top firms to pay workers living wage

Letter addresses companies including Royal Mail, British Airways and JD Sports

Influential City investors have written to the chief executives of companies including Royal Mail, British Airways and JD Sports urging them to pay their workers a real living wage.

The letter calls on businesses to seek accreditation from the Living Wage Foundation, which makes sure companies pay employees and contractors an hourly rate higher than the national minimum. Signatories include the UK’s largest asset manager, Legal & General Investment Management, Candriam Investors Group, BMO Global Asset Management and responsible investment group Hermes EOS. The investors together control almost £2tn in assets. read more

Consider the logistics of shopping online | Letter

Few people have any sense of the complexity, transport-intensity, environmental impact and social costs of modern supply chains, says Prof Alan McKinnon

Samanth Subramanian argues that “the great trick of online retail has been to get us to do more shopping while thinking less about it – thinking less, in particular, about how our purchases reach our homes” (Deliver us, 21 November). But consumers have never taken much interest in where stuff comes from or how it is delivered. In a survey of UK adults back in 2009, only 14% claimed to have “some knowledge” of the “role of logistics in the economy”. When logistics works, which is most of the time, it is taken for granted and ignored. As a result, few people have any sense of the complexity, transport-intensity, environmental impact and social costs of modern supply chains, not just on the “last mile” but all the way back to the raw material source. Greater public awareness of distribution systems upstream of the home and shop could help to promote more sustainable patterns of consumption and more informed debate on subjects such as Brexit, climate change and the gig economy, all of which have an important logistical dimension.
Prof Alan McKinnon
Kühne Logistics University, Hamburg, Germany read more

Food delivery bike couriers in Australia being underpaid by up to $322 a week

Exclusive: Survey reveals almost all are paid per delivery and a quarter of riders have been in an accident

Food delivery bike couriers are being underpaid by up to $322 a week compared with minimum rates of pay and superannuation in the transport award, according to new union statistics.

The Young Workers Centre – an initiative of the Victoria Trades Hall Council – conducted a survey of more than 240 riders, revealing most are engaged on a “take-it-or-leave-it” basis and almost all are paid per delivery, with no minimum rates of pay. read more

Ken Loach’s new film is a must-see for all | Letters

Sorry We Missed You is not just for middle-class cinephiles, says James Hope-Thompson. Hilary Fraser writes that a close relative was deeply affected by the film, while Ian Grieve says that it should be compulsory viewing for all voters

In reply to Bryn Hughes’ letter about Ken Loach, stating that “possessing the means to watch movies in cinemas might well be a valid definition of the middle class” (29 October), I saw Sorry We Missed You at a well-attended free preview screening at Odeon Liverpool at exactly the same time as the premier in London. read more

'I love my job’: meet 81-year-old bar worker, June – and Britain’s other most loyal employees

What is it like to have the same job in the same company for as long as 40 years? A tailor, school meals supervisor, bus driver and sexual health nurse tell all

In the future, the people who spend their careers doing the same job will be historical curios, the workplace equivalent of a narwhal’s tusk. We’ll look at them, and marvel at how much careers have changed.

Technology has profoundly transformed the nature of the work we do. The Office for National Statistics predicts that 1.5 million British workers risk losing their jobs as a result of automation, with farm workers, waiting staff and shelf fillers notably at risk. At the same time, globalisation has decimated UK manufacturing, with jobs outsourced to developing nations with cheaper workforces and fewer labour protections. The rise of the gig economy has also seen a growing number of people in precarious, low-paid temporary work, without the perks of permanent employees: maternity leave, sick pay or a pension. What this means is that the halcyon days of a job for life are slipping away. The future is coming for us, whether we want it or not. read more

Poor people priced out of Ken Loach films at cinema | Brief letters

Women in the gig economy | Ken Loach films | People’s vote | Pascal’s wager | Lib Dems | Council housing

It is all very well claiming that because we now have over 75% of women with dependent children working, it is because of our family-friendly policies (Report, 25 October). The gig economy notoriously relies on women to become “self-employed” and as such women cannot claim maternity benefits. It is more likely that the percentage of women with dependent children has grown because it is so hard for families to get by without two breadwinners.
Margaret Squires
St Andrews, Fife read more

The WeWork debacle should be an indictment of modern finance | Nesrine Malik

The workspace company’s troubles are a sign that the ‘unicorn’ economic model cannot be sustained

It happens every few years – not quite with the regularity of the seasons but with the inevitability of a natural disaster. A new company is founded on the basis of a new and seemingly ingenious concept, and then rocket-fuelled by growth-boosting investor capital. It briefly burns bright and then implodes, collapsing under the weight of its own balance sheet.

The latest tech financial calamity is WeWork, an office space and “workplace solutions” operator that is now shrinking rapidly, after a planned initial public offering (IPO) was scrapped when potential investors rejected its absurd $20bn (£15.5bn) valuation. WeWork’s collapse is a business-school study in the excesses of private capital in an unregulated market that fetishises the wealth-creating genius of the lone pioneer. read more

Food delivery apps fuel a junk economy that never fills the productivity gap

£5bn Just Eat bidding war reflects a ballooning sector adding little value to consumers, workers or UK

An app that links you up with restaurants and sends the food round by bike is worth an astonishing £5bn, judged by the bidding war over Just Eat that erupted in the City this week.

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. Late in the evening my local McDonald’s is a mess of bike couriers (Uber Eats, mostly) picking up the likes of double quarter-pounder cheeseburgers (mmm, 102% of an adult’s entire saturated fat for the day). read more