In what could be a major setback for private hire firms nationwide, an Employment Tribunal has ruled that private hire drivers at Northampton based Bounds Taxis are workers.
In a case brought by Shafqat Shah and Samuel Adjei and backed by the App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU), the Employment Tribunal has confirmed that Bounds Taxis must respect the right of drivers to earn at least the minimum wage, holiday pay and be protected from discrimination. Employment Judge Postle ruled that Bounds drivers are ‘workers without doubt’.
A spokesperson for the ADCU has said that Bounds has for years operated a business model which insists that drivers are self-employed yet “drivers were subject to intense micro management and a harsh disciplinary process“.
The union says drivers were required to wear a Bounds uniform under threat of suspension if they did not do so, and were penalised if they missed or refused a job dispatched by the firm’s app.
Commenting on this regime of misclassification the Judge noted in his ruling: “It is clear from the factual basis that each driver had no choice, that was imposed upon them by the Respondents no doubt to avoid any potential employer-employee obligations.”
According to the union, Bounds required their driver workforce to pay the company £9,000 in ‘rent’ with no guarantees about how much work, if any, they might receive. The Judge found that ‘rent’ was collected weekly and if drivers were late with payment they were ‘fined’ £10 per day by management.
In a withering assessment of the evidence presented at the Employment Tribunal by Bounds the Judge remarked in his ruling: “Their evidence was largely unhelpful, disingenuous and evasive on occasions.”
Shaqat Shah, Chair of ADCU Northampton and claimant in the case, said: “I am so pleased and relieved that Bounds drivers are now finally recognized as the workers we always were. The era of brutal exploitation in the local minicab trade must come to an end but Northampton City Council, who both license Bounds and use its services, must no longer turn a blind eye to the abuse that has gone on for too long.”
Yaseen Aslam, President of ADCU, said: “This case once again proves that the problem of worker abuse in the private hire sector is widespread and deeply rooted in an industry that employs more than 250,000 people nation-wide. The ADCU will not hesitate to protect our members wherever they may be and there will be plenty more similar cases to come. If the government will not enforce the law to protect the most vulnerable workers in this trade, then we will.”