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App workers to protest outside Uber London HQ after the alleged unfair dismissal of over 200 workers

Image credit: IWGB

Drivers and couriers working on gig economy apps are set to protest today (26 July) outside Uber’s London HQ.

The United Private Hire Drivers Branch and the Couriers and Logistics Branch of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) will protest at 3pm.

Workers demand the reinstatement of what they say are "unfairly sacked colleagues" and a transparent termination process which respects basic rights to a hearing, trade union representation and to appeal, in line with ACAS guidelines.

The union has also raised concerns over the "disproportionate" impact of automated ID checks on BAME workers, many of whom report being terminated after years of loyal service because the app failed to recognise their faces.

According to the union, in 2018 a similar version of the software used by Uber was found to have a failure rate of 20.8 percent for darker-skinned female faces, 6 percent for male, falling to zero percent for white men.

Uber, Deliveroo and other app-based corporations routinely sack drivers and couriers without notice, investigation or due process, the Union has said.

In November, 72 MPs signed an Early Day Motion condemning “the opaque and unjust process by which app-based couriers and private hire drivers working for companies such as UBER and Deliveroo can be blocked permanently from their accounts and thus effectively dismissed from their jobs”, and called for “all app-based companies to end unfair dismissals by implementing fair dismissal processes, including a hearing prior to dismissal, and the right to appeal a dismissal with union representation”.

The IWGB has made representations on behalf of over 200 drivers in the last year following their deactivation to companies including Uber, Deliveroo, Bolt, Stuart, Free Now and Ola, but according to the union, in the vast majority of cases the companies have not conducted any investigation or allowed appeal and as a result hundreds of key workers remain unable to work. As “limb-b workers” private hire drivers and couriers are not protected legally from unfair dismissal, except in cases of discrimination.

George Ibekwe, a deactivated Uber driver, said: “I was sacked by Uber following a complaint from a customer. I wasn’t given an explanation or the chance to respond to the complaint that led to my deactivation. I’m a professional driver and I do not believe this complaint was a fair reflection of the reality of the dedicated work that I do.

"When I was deactivated it made me go into a panic and then depression because I suddenly felt completely precarious. I have debts to clear, a family to look after, and a car finance deal to pay for, and my livelihood has been taken away. My despair has spread throughout my family. Uber cannot continue to treat us drivers in this way.”

Edson, a deactivated courier, said: "When I was terminated by Deliveroo, I was hurt. I worked for Deliveroo very very hard and made them a lot of money. I worked in the rain, all kinds of weather, Monday to Sunday, twelve hours a day. When they fired me, saying I was not delivering in a reasonable time, I felt like I was disposable to them.

"One or two deliveries, I was late, sure, I had to take toilet breaks, and anyway everyone makes one or two mistakes. They don’t think of us as human beings who sometimes get tired and make small mistakes, they think of us as robots. If I had a normal work contract, I would not have been fired so carelessly for such a small reason after working for a company for two and a half years."

Ian Byrne MP, who tabled EDM 1110 against unfair deactivations, said: “Companies such as Uber, Deliveroo, Bolt and Stuart have made firing drivers and couriers into a daily routine. It is shameful that hundreds of key workers have lost their livelihoods with no notice and no fair process over the last year, driving workers and their families into poverty.

"Uber and the others must clean up their act, and as a country we need far stronger protections in place to make it impossible for gig economy companies to get away with treating their workers as disposable.”

Alex Marshall, IWGB President and former courier, says: “At a time when we should be celebrating their efforts through the pandemic we are forced to protest for workers who put their lives on the line working through three lockdowns for subminimum wage and have been sacked without so much as a conversation.

"It’s inexcusable that these employers would rather allow this to happen than invest a few extra pounds in a fair process for complaints and dismissals. The IWGB will keep fighting until all these unfairly terminated drivers are reinstated and a fair system is implemented to stop situations like this happening ever again."


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