Updated: Oct 27, 2020
In a landmark case, the App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU) have today filed a complaint in the Amsterdam district court to challenge Uber’s alleged practice of 'robo-firing' of drivers by algorithm.
The union is bringing the case on behalf of three drivers from London and Birmingham in the UK. The International Alliance of All Based Transport Workers is supporting the claim of a fourth driver from Lisbon, Portugal. The action is also supported by Worker Info Exchange, a non-profit organisation dedicated to workplace digital rights.
Under the UK Data Protection Act and Article 22 of the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), individuals have the right to certain protections from automated decisions which create negative effects but are carried out without meaningful human intervention.
The union claims that in each of the cases the drivers were dismissed after Uber said its systems had detected fraudulent activity on the part of the individuals concerned. The drivers involved deny that they were in any way engaged in fraud. The ADCU say that Uber has never made any such complaint to the police or provided the drivers access to any of the purported evidence against them, nor allowed them the opportunity to challenge or appeal the decision to terminate.
The private hire union believes that Uber seeks to undercut its obligation to driver’s worker rights by concealing performance related dismissals as ‘fraud’ related dismissals. In London, drivers who are dismissed by Uber are automatically reported to TfL who then may take licensing action against them.
The ADCU is inviting all former Uber drivers from the UK throughout the European Economic Area who have been similarly dismissed over alleged ‘fraudulent activity’ to register on their website at www.adcu.org.uk/wie.
Yaseen Aslam, President of the ADCU and member of the IIATW steering committee, said: "Uber has been allowed to violate employment law with impunity for years and now we are seeing a glimpse into an Orwellian world of work where workers have no rights and are managed by machine. If Uber are not checked, this practice will become the norm for everyone."
James Farrar, Director of Worker Info Exchange, said: "Uber has industrialised the process for the firing of drivers at scale in a frighteningly uniform way across the UK and Europe. It is morally offensive that workers can be dismissed in such a callously automated way without any right of appeal or to even know the basis of the algorithmically generated allegations made against them."
Anton Ekker, the lawyer representing the drivers, said: "This case demonstrates the impact of automated decision making for the millions of people that are working in the platform economy. For the first time, Uber drivers are challenging these decisions based on the GDPR."