Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/771/16993
Having a fine time? Not if you're a courier driver
A South West Socialist Party member
Van drivers fined for late deliveries, unable to take holidays for fear of being fined - this is the reality of working life for a workforce in Cardiff.
My cousin Ryan gets up at 5am six days a week and if he's lucky he's back home by 6.30pm.
He works for Yodel, formerly Home Delivery Network before it became part of the Barclay Brothers' empire, along with the Ritz Hotel and the Daily Telegraph. The new regime offered redundancy or new terms and conditions to the drivers.
That was in 2011. Life was hard enough before, but under Yodel the screw was turned ever tighter. Drivers had to buy or lease their vans and pay for their own fuel.
Yodel introduced timed deliveries with a premium price for pre-midday deliveries from such outfits as Littlewoods and Tesco.
The downside of that was a penalty clause for deliveries after midday. Yodel's answer? Shift the risk onto the drivers.
Ryan explained: "One driver was pushed to breaking point by the timed delivery policy. We're expected to travel to every corner of our round to perform our pre-midday deliveries and if we fail, we're fined £10 per parcel.
"This driver missed eight parcels for a Tesco store by a few minutes. Instead of showing him compassion, the depot manager fined him the full £80. He hit the manager and was instantly dismissed."
Yodel's contract stipulates that they must find someone else to cover their round if they have the temerity to want a day off.
Ryan said: "Who can we expect to cover our round except other drivers? But they're usually too stretched to take on extra work and if the round is uncovered Yodel fine drivers between £90 and £250 a day. They say that's to cover the cost of a replacement vehicle, fuel and driver.
"The time a colleague was fined £250 was in the busy pre-Christmas period. Management decided it would take two drivers in two vans with two loads of fuel to complete the round. Funny they expected one man to do that work normally!"
Ryan copped a £105 fine when he took a day off but, because he's taken just three days off in the last 18 months, he's been allowed to keep the wage he earns. A workmate has had just one day in that time.
All van drivers have to earn about £250 each week to cover fuel, insurance and van-lease. Earnings vary according to the load and at busy times drivers can earn up to £1,000 a week (minus overheads). Other weeks it can be as little as £400.
So with holidays a thing of the past and a constant threat of fines you would think drivers would be leaving in their droves.
One driver found another job but Yodel threatened to fine him for every day his round was not covered during his 90-day notice period.
As Ryan said: "This intimidation should not be tolerated, but management have imposed an environment where the workers are too scared to challenge them."
Ryan speaks to drivers in other delivery companies and fines are not unique to Yodel. One competitor fines its drivers if they are early - as well as for being late - £25 for each transgression.
If a driver is ahead of schedule they have no option but to pull over for a few minutes!
In The Socialist 26 June 2013:
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