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Uber faces Court of Appeal in landmark gig economy workers' rights case

Lower tribunals have twice ruled against taxi firm, which argues drivers are self-employed so have no right to holiday pay and the National Minimum Wage

Ben Chapman
Monday 29 October 2018 13:37 GMT
Decision could have implications for millions of precarious workers
Decision could have implications for millions of precarious workers (AFP)

Uber will face the Court of Appeal on Tuesday in a landmark case which could set a precedent for millions of precarious workers in the gig economy.

The taxi company argues that its 70,000 drivers are self-employed meaning that they are not entitled to basic workers’ rights including holiday pay and the National Minimum Wage.

But lower courts have twice ruled against the company in a fight that goes back more than two years. While the case works its way through the appeals process, Uber has not adjusted its contracts to bring them into line with the Employment Tribunal’s October 2016 ruling - a decision that has cost drivers an average £18,000 according to the GMB Union, which brought the case.

The two day Court of Appeal hearing will consider Uber’s argument that it is merely an agent, connecting drivers with passengers.

In their ruling the employment tribunal found that Uber’s attempt to characterise itself in this way was “absurd”.

Nigel Mackay, partner at Leigh Day which is representing 81 Uber drivers, said he found it “disappointing” that Uber continued to deny workers basic rights.

“The employment tribunal made clear and well-reasoned findings, backed-up by the evidence produced at the tribunal, including Uber’s own description of itself in publicity material as ‘a transportation network’ and ‘Everyone’s Private Driver’, Mr Mackay said.

“It is very disappointing that Uber refuses to accept the employment tribunal’s judgment and instead continues to deny the GMB members that we represent their fundamental workers’ rights, including to be paid at least the National Minimum Wage and to receive paid time off.

“These are not unreasonable demands.”

The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB), which is backing co-claimants Yaseen Aslam and James Farrar in the case, has organised a march in London on Tuesday to show solidarity amongst precarious workers.

Backed by Momentum, the Communications Workers Union, War On Want, Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union and United Voices of the World, among others, the march is expected to be the largest against precarious work so far held in the UK.

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The march will pass by the Royal Courts of Justice and stop at the University of London, where outsourced workers are on strike demanding equal terms and conditions with in-house staff, and at NHS contractor The Doctors Laboratory.

IWGB United Private Hire Drivers branch chair and Uber case co-claimant James Farrar said: “It's two years since we beat Uber at the Employment Tribunal, yet minicab drivers all over the UK are still waiting for justice, while Uber exhausts endless appeals.

As the government ignores this mounting crisis, it's been left to workers to fix this broken system and bring rogue bosses to account. If anything gives me hope, it is the rising tide of precarious workers that are organising and demanding a fair deal.“

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