Judges in the United Kingdom struck down an appeal by the ride hailing company Uber against a historic ruling by the employment tribunal of the country which mandated that the drivers of Uber would have to be recognised as workers and thereby would fall under the purview of the minimum wage regulations and be granted paid holidays.
The employment tribunal ruling of October 2016 which has the potential to impact tens of thousands of workers in the gig economy, was upheld by Master of the rolls, Sir Terence Etherton, along with Lord Justice Underhill and Lord Justice Bean.
A high degree of fiction” in the manner in which a standard agreement between Uber and its drivers was noted the judges. According to the agreement, Uber’s drivers are recognised as self-employed independent contractors and hence possess very limited employment rights.
“For [Uber] to be stating to its statutory regulator that it is operating a private hire vehicle service in London and is a fit and proper person to do so, while at the same time arguing in this litigation that it is merely an affiliate of a Dutch-registered company which licenses tens of thousands of proprietors of small businesses to use its software, contributes to the air of contrivance and artificiality which pervade’s Uber’s case,” said the jugment handed down on Wednesday.
Uber has been granted the option to contest the latest ruling in the supreme court. Before heading to the court of appeal, Uber had earlier appealed to the employment appeal tribunal.
Uber was first taken to court on the issue by two of its drivers James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam, filing a law suit on behalf of 19 others wherein the petitioners argued that they were employees of the San Francisco-based company and were not working for themselves.
“We’re really delighted and relieved but also dismayed that drivers have no remedy while Uber exhausts another appeal. It is just a cynical ploy to delay the inevitable while they pursue a [stock market flotation] next year. It shouldn’t be us doing this. It is the government’s job to enforce the law and the mayor of London should and could do more to protect drivers,” Farrar said.
“We have got a union backing us and the ability to bring this case but this is not an ideal scenario for a precarious worker,” Aslam told the media.
According to the business model that Uber follows, drivers that work with the company have to log on to its app and are treated as self-employed contractors. It generates revenues by taking a fee from the fares of the drivers and the rate of fee or commission is also dictated by the company.
The GMB union and the two lead claimants are also supported by the gig-economy union IWGB had initially backed the case which has been led by law firm Leigh Day.
“We’re now at a hat-trick of jugments against Uber, they keep appealing and keep losing. Uber should just accept the verdict and stop trying to find loopholes that deprive people of their hard-won rights and hard-earned pay,” said Tim Roache, the GMB general secretary.
(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)