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UBER SAY “IT’S ABSURD”: Pressure on operators to offer basic workers’ rights intensifies

Pressure is rising on private hire operators to comply with new worker standards as Uber say “it’s absurd” that one operator will cover workers’ rights on one trip and not another.

As calls for all operators to offer basic working rights intensifies, Uber’s own economic analysis shows drivers could now be better off working on their app rather than Bolt, since Bolt’s service fee was raised from 15% to 20%.

Uber also suggests that due to their 12.07% holiday payments, paid out weekly, as well as eligible drivers having access to a pension scheme, drivers could now see Uber as the more attractive and profitable option.

With the number of licensed minicab drivers down due to low demand during the pandemic, operators such as Uber, Bolt and Ola are now battling to recruit the remaining drivers as demand for rides begins to return.

A spokesperson for Uber told TaxiPoint: “Only on Uber are UK drivers entitled to workers’ rights such as holiday pay, a pension and a guarantee to earn at least the National Minimum Living Wage. No other operator has followed suit.

“Drivers work across multiple platforms in any one day and it’s absurd that they will be covered with these workers’ rights on one trip and not another.

“The Supreme Court was clear that drivers must be treated as workers. Other operators and ride-hailing apps such as Bolt and Ola have substantially the same business model as Uber.”

Back in February, the United Kingdom Supreme Court handed victory to Uber drivers after a six-year battle for workers’ rights including the right to earn the minimum wage and holiday pay.

The decision meant tens of thousands of Uber drivers could claim the right to be classed as workers. During the judgment handed down by Lord Leggatt, he said: “The employment tribunal was, in my view, entitled to conclude that, by logging onto the Uber app in London, a claimant driver came within the definition of a ‘worker’ by entering into a contract with Uber London whereby he undertook to perform driving services for Uber London.”

The Supreme Court was clear that drivers must be treated as workers. Other operators have so far resisted giving drivers holiday pay and pensions, but they will likely face future legal challenges.

In a recent interview with TaxiPoint, James Farrar, co-lead claimant and App Drivers & Couriers Union General Secretary, was asked whether other private hire operators should be proactive and recognise drivers as ‘workers’ now.

Farrar responded: “If you are asking if businesses should not obey any laws until a court orders them to do so, then the answer is no because otherwise we would have total corporate anarchy. That said, there is no doubt in my mind that the private hire industry has been built on the mouldy pillars of corporate civil disobedience. Abuse of worker rights of drivers has been de rigueur for private hire operators for decades. By behaving this way for so long, private hire operators sowed the seeds of their own destruction and set up ripe conditions for Uber to emerge. Companies like Uber thrive in conditions where regulation is weak and weakly enforced and where workers have not been effectively organised in a union like the ADCU. All ethical, fit and proper, organisations must recognise their obligation to voluntarily obey the law at the point of departure.

“The coming transition to ‘normal’ will be difficult but necessary for all private hire operators. If they cannot see the light for themselves, our union will certainly assist them in doing so – one way or another.”

Despite the calls, Bolt has defended their position by stating that their model is different to rival apps and does not apply to the Uber Supreme Court ruling.

In June Bolt drivers went on strike over Bolt's failure to respect their rights. A Bolt spokesperson defended the firm’s stance on the dispute before the strike, saying: "Bolt wasn’t operating in London in 2016 (the time frame for the Supreme Court ruling) and our model is different.

"We maintain regular dialogue with drivers regarding many topics, through surveys, newsletters, social platforms and in-person forums. They tell us they like Bolt because it charges less commission - as low as 10% for drivers with electric vehicles - resulting in higher average earnings when on a trip.

"The majority of private hire drivers who enter the industry do so for the flexible hours and freedom to choose when to drive so we don’t penalise drivers for declining trips or for accepting trips from other companies.

"We believe it’s likely that drivers will continue to be offered more choice, benefits and freedoms across operators. We will continue to proactively seek feedback - positive and negative - from all relevant parties in this regard, and carry on working with other businesses and the Government on this topic."


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