Uber tells other taxi firms to end ‘exploitation’ of drivers ahead of landmark union talks

Ride-hailing firm holds groundbreaking meeting with GMB union after Supreme Court ruling on workers’ rights

Ben Chapman
Thursday 26 August 2021 13:31 BST
Consultancies and banks are pondering the future of digital disruption within the financial sector
Consultancies and banks are pondering the future of digital disruption within the financial sector (Getty)

Uber’s UK boss is to meet with the head of the GMB union to hold groundbreaking talks about the ride-hailing company’s treatment of workers.

Jamie Heywood, Uber’s UK chief, and GMB’s Gary Smith said the “exploitation” of drivers by companies such as Bolt and Addison Lee must stop.

In a joint statement, GMB and Uber said an estimated 230,000 drivers were not being granted their legal rights.

The talks come after Uber lost a Supreme Court case earlier this year over workers’ rights. Judges dismissed the company’s appeal, ruling that lower courts were right to find that Uber drivers must be legally classified as workers and paid the minimum wage, a pension and holiday pay.

For years, Uber had argued drivers were independent contractors. Now the company is calling on competitors to fall in line with the Supreme Court’s verdict.

Uber recognised GMB as a union for its 70,000 taxi drivers in May. Gary Smith, GMB General Secretary, said the deal was a “first step” towards a fairer working life for drivers.

“It showed that when companies and trade unions work together, standards can be raised across these industries,” he said.

“Earlier this year the Supreme Court set a precedent for all ride-hailing apps to provide drivers with worker rights such as holiday pay and a pension.

“Uber has done this for its 70,000 drivers, but there are more than 200,000 more working for other operators still denied these basic legal rights.

“GMB and Uber today take the next step in our commitment to ending the exploitation of hundreds of thousands of ride-hailing app drivers.”

Addison Lee boss Liam Griffin hit back at Uber’s statement, saying: “We guarantee the drivers that work with us get the London living wage level of earnings, as opposed to only the national minimum wage paid by Uber. Drivers working with Addison Lee also get access to a pension and holiday pay.”

Addison Lee has been involved in its own court battle with workers. Thousands of drivers could be in line for compensation averaging £10,000 each after the Court of Appeal found in April that workers were entitled to holiday pay and the national minimum wage.

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