The GMB Union are challenging Uber in court over the employment status of its driver base. The union believes that Uber is failing to provide drivers with their legal rights as employees of the company by designating them as self-employed.
The GMB Union meets Uber in Court
The private hire drivers’ union has also accused the American firm of acting unlawfully by paying their drivers below the minimum wage.
GMB claim that last year that a member working exclusively for Uber received just £5.03 per hour in August after costs and fees were taken into account which is significantly below the national minimum wage.
In addition to this they cite the company for placing drivers under excessive pressure to pick up an unrealistically high number fares during a shift. This practice they believe is a health and safety risk for passengers and other road users.
The company is also accused of deducting sums from drivers’ pay, often without informing the drivers in advance, including when customers make complaints.
The test case is being brought by two drivers with the support of the GMB union. If upheld the lawyers representing the GMB have a further 17 claims ready to progress. It is thought that a large number of drivers that are registered to the app will also come forward.
At the initial hearing in central London on July 20th the employment tribunal heard one driver state that the firm controlled him “very, very carefully”.
Are Drivers Employed by Uber?
The Tribunal will determine whether Uber drivers should be entitled to receive holiday pay, a guaranteed minimum wage and an entitlement to breaks.
The outcome could have significant ramifications for the cab app and other firms in the so called “Gig Economy.” In London alone over 42,000 drivers will be completing bookings received via the Uber app in 2016. Workers in occupations across England and Wales could potentially benefit if a legal precedent is set.
This is the first time that Uber has faced legal action in the UK over whether their drivers are workers or self-employed. During the hearing James Farrar of Bordon, Hampshire claimed that the company logged him out of its system when he ignored two bookings.
The driver said this was effectively put him in a “penalty box” for ten minutes and that he received warnings when he failed to take all jobs. He also highlighted how he had been assaulted twice, racially abused once and verbally attacked by passengers many times.
Annie Powell, a lawyer in the employment team at Leigh Day, said
Uber’s defence is that it is just a technology company, not a taxi company, and that Uber drivers do not work for Uber but instead work for themselves as self-employed business men and women. We will argue that Uber exerts significant control over its drivers in order to provide an on-demand taxi service to the public. If Uber wishes to operate in this way, and to reap the substantial benefits, then it must acknowledge its responsibilities towards those drivers as workers.
Plan we keep you informed on the case as soon as more details become available.
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