After losing last month’s Supreme Court case, Uber has said it will now recognise its 70,000 UK drivers as workers, conceding some of the basic rights and protections the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) have campaigned for since 2017.
However, Uber’s proposed changes are not quite stacking up to what the Supreme Court’s decision imposed on the ride-sharing firm.
The IWGB have said that Uber “still falls short of the Supreme Court ruling, which clearly stated claimants were entitled to a guaranteed minimum wage from the moment they log into the app“ which would have eliminated the “controversial and continuing practice of unpaid waiting time“. Consequently, the IWGB is now calling on HMRC to intervene and enforce this ruling for all drivers.
Drivers are currently set to receive a minimum wage guarantee (National Living Wage) of £8.72 per hour (after vehicle running costs) during trips; pension contributions from Uber in a pension scheme that is yet to be established; and an additional payment of 12.07% of earnings (after vehicle running costs) every two weeks to reflect their right to paid holiday.
However, Uber has not given information on how it will calculate vehicle running costs when making pay and holiday calculations. Compensation for backdated pay and holidays is also still outstanding: the IWGB has an ongoing case against Uber in partnership with leading law firm Leigh Day, representing hundreds of drivers’ claims for backdated wages and holiday pay.
IWGB say Uber’s assertion that drivers "should not have to compromise on flexibility in order to benefit from new rights and protections” flies in the face of previous arguments made by Uber and other prominent gig economy companies such as Deliveroo, who have long presented flexibility and workers’ rights as mutually exclusive and widely exploited the practice of worker misclassification to deny their workers’ rights across the world.
The IWGB also highlighted Uber’s failure to mention the additional health and safety protections Uber drivers would be entitled to as workers. The workers’ right to refuse unsafe work and to Personal Protective Equipment (PPE,) established by the IWGB in the Supreme Court last year, are of particular relevance as private hire drivers have disproportionately lost their lives to Covid-19.
Nader Awaad, Vice Chair, United Private Hire Drivers branch of the IWGB, says: “Uber has finally conceded that drivers are entitled to worker rights. Make no mistake, Uber has been forced into this decision by pressure from drivers. Following the Supreme Court victory, hundreds upon hundreds of drivers responded to Uber’s recent consultation on worker rights by calling on Uber to pay up and speak to our union.
“This is a positive step from Uber, however as ever the devil is in the details and Uber is still falling short. To comply with the law, Uber needs to guarantee a minimum wage for the entire time we are logged into the app, as the Supreme Court ruled, and pay immediate compensation for backdated wages, holiday pay and pensions. Moreover, Uber must now turn over a new leaf in how they treat drivers and commit to a fair process for dismissals and trade union recognition. To win this will require a strong union - now is the time for all drivers to join UPHD.”
Alex Marshall, President, IWGB, says: “This massive victory for Uber drivers proves what we have said all along - you can have workers rights and flexibility. After a long hard battle Uber has been forced into a corner by the drivers and has seen that the only way out is to give the drivers what is legally theirs. There is more that needs to be done for Uber to comply with the law. They are still doing their best to take drivers for a ride. But this will send shockwaves across the gig-economy and sets a precedent to end the exploitative practices synonymous with the likes of Deliveroo, Bolt, Addison Lee and others. This is a big step in the right direction and shows what can be achieved when workers come together and fight for what is rightfully theirs.”
The United Private Hire Drivers (UPHD) branch of the IWGB, demands:
HMRC intervene to enforce a national minimum wage guarantee from the moment drivers log into the app to log out, as ruled by the Supreme Court.
Trade union recognition.
A negotiated agreement with UPHD regarding how Uber calculates driver expenses when calculating minimum wage.
Backdated minimum wage, holiday pay and pension contributions for all drivers who have been wrongfully denied these rights for years.
A fair dismissals process for drivers in line with ACAS minimum standards.