Uber and Deliveroo drivers protest over hundreds of ‘unfair’ dismissals

Gig economy workers demand fair process after platforms deactivate their accounts and give them no option to appeal

Ben Chapman
Tuesday 27 July 2021 11:36

Drivers protested outside Uber's UK headquarters in London on Monday after being permanently dismissed via "opaque" processes with no option to appeal.

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) organised the demonstration outside Aldgate Tower after being contacted by around 200 drivers and couriers for major gig economy platforms including Deliveroo, Uber and courier company Stuart.

Drivers say that the companies deactivated their accounts, effectively terminating their jobs, without notice and often with little explanation. In many cases, action was taken following complaints from customers which drivers say were unfounded.

They believe they have been unfairly dismissed and are demanding that platforms introduce a fair, transparent termination process in line with guidelines from employment arbitration service Acas.

IWGB' private hire drivers branch also wants workers who have been unfairly dismissed to be reinstated.

Deliveroo rejected the claims, which it described as “inaccurate”. The company said any driver whose account was shut down would first have received a warning by email about their conduct with recommendations about how to improve.

“Notifications also warn riders that further breaches could mean that their contract is ended,” the company said. “A decision to end a contract is only taken if such behaviour continues after this notification.”

Uber and Stuart did not respond to requests for comment.

Labour said it was "shameful" that hundreds of key workers had lost their livelihoods without a proper process.

Legally, private hire drivers and couriers are classified as “limb-b workers”, meaning they are not protected from unfair dismissal, except in cases of discrimination.

Uber driver George Ibekwe, said he became depressed after his account was deactivated following a complaint from a customer.

"I wasn’t given an explanation or the chance to respond to the complaint that led to my deactivation," he said.

I have debts to clear, a family to look after, and a car finance deal to pay for, and my livelihood has been taken away. My despair has spread throughout my family. Uber cannot continue to treat us drivers in this way.”

One former Deliveroo rider, Edson, said he felt "hurt" when Deliveroo deactivated his account. "I worked in the rain, all kinds of weather, Monday to Sunday, twelve hours a day," he said.

"When they fired me, saying I was not delivering in a reasonable time, I felt like I was disposable to them."

In November, 72 MPs signed an Early Day Motion condemning “opaque and unjust" processes used by firms like Uber and Deliveroo to effectively dismiss from their jobs.

The MPs called for all app-based companies to implement fair dismissal processes, including a hearing prior to dismissal, and the right to appeal a dismissal with union representation.

Ian Byrne , who tabled the motion, it had become "routine" for gig economy companies to fire drivers.

"It is shameful that hundreds of key workers have lost their livelihoods with no notice and no fair process over the last year, driving workers and their families into poverty," he said.

"Uber and the others must clean up their act, and as a country we need far stronger protections in place to make it impossible for gig economy companies to get away with treating their workers as disposable.”

Alex Marshall, IWGB President and former courier, said: “Terminations at the touch of a button with no due process are just one more way the gig economy is rigged against workers.

“Still treated as disposable even after being key workers through a pandemic, what choice do they have but to fight back? We’re with them every step of the way.”

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