To: Jo Bertram: Head of Uber UK
Uber UK: Stop driving down workers' rights
Either give your drivers proper employment rights, or give them the freedoms of genuinely self-employed businesses.
Why is this important?
19 Uber drivers, with the backing of their union GMB, have won a landmark case against the app-enabled taxi firm, who have refused to give drivers basic employment rights. Uber have announced they will appeal the decision however, so this fight looks to have a long (and costly) way yet to go.
This legal case has exposed the dark side of the so called 'gig economy'. For many the gig economy is a rigged economy, where bosses weasel out of paying living wages. Or providing basics like paid holiday time.
If you are a ‘self-employed’ driver at Uber you are virtually a slave to app. Miss a job alert and you can be “deactivated” without appeal. Fail to keep up your rating and you can be cast aside at any moment.
“I guarantee you one thing, Uber don’t see drivers as humans.” Driver Ruman Miah told the Guardian earlier this year.
Being kept on a leash of a self-serving app is not most people’s definition of self-employment. Genuinely self-employed contractors can refuse jobs, set their own hours and sub-contract work to others.
But if you work for Uber you enjoy none of the freedoms of self-employment, and none of the security of regular employment - both ways you lose. It’s not surprising that many feel powerless and unable to speak out.
Whilst Uber are denying workers some basic employment rights, they’re also ducking these drivers’ National Insurance contributions. It’s taking millions of pounds from the Exchequer, but it also means drivers lose access to many important benefits if they need them.
Technological change should be a force for good. But increasingly it is being used to control and exploit workforces, and cheat them out of decent wages.
Uber can’t have it both ways. They should accept the tribunal verdict, drop the appeal, and either give their workers decent employment rights, or give them the freedoms of genuine self-employment.