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IWGB to sue government for failing to protect precarious workers

THE Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) is to sue the government for excluding millions of workers from its guarantees of financial help for employees during the coronavirus crisis.

The union said today that the new policies discriminate against people in the so-called “gig economy” of low-paid, insecure jobs, and against the self-employed.

The IWGB said that the current level of statutory sick pay of £94.25 week discriminates against low-paid women, black and ethnic minority workers and workers in the gig economy for whom the payments are not enough to survive, or in some cases are not even available at all.

This is because they do not qualify for sick pay as they are not paid a minimum qualifying wage of £118 a week. Nor do they qualify for 80 per cent wage subsidies.

The union warned that the current arrangements are not only discriminatory and risk driving millions of workers into deeper poverty but are also a major threat to public health since many workers are forced to continue working while sick or while they should be self-isolating in order to survive.

IWGB general secretary 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.”

Cleaner Linda Arteaga 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.”

IWGB has launched a crowdfunder appeal of £20,000 towards legal costs.

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