‘The gig economy doesn’t work,’ says victorious Uber driver

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But taxi app has the opportunity to offer employment rights, says James Farrar, as other drivers ‘prepare claims’

Legal experts are still studying the full implications of a landmark decision made by a London employment tribunal last week, when Uber drivers won the right to be classed as workers, with access to holiday pay, sick pay and other benefits.

The ruling followed a hearing brought by the GMB union on behalf of two drivers, and could affect around 40,000 Uber drivers in the UK, as well as reaching into roles as varied as warehouse workers and hotel chambermaids, and thousands of self-employed couriers working on behalf of nationwide companies.

As part of its defence, the taxi-hailing app claimed it was a technology company rather than a taxi provider, which meant its drivers should be regarded as self-employed users of the app platform. Uber is likely to appeal the decision, but the law firm behind the case has said it is preparing several hundred further legal claims from drivers for backdated wages and holiday pay. Uber has declined to comment specifically on the tribunal’s decision.

People Management asked James Farrar, one of the victorious drivers and founder of non-profit organisation Networked Rights, what he expects to happen next.

What was your initial reaction to the ruling?

I was relieved and overjoyed by the result. Employers, politicians and regulators have treated Uber drivers as the lowest of the low, so this means they have gotten their self-respect back. Drivers now have confirmation that they do indeed have rights that they can reach for and assert.

What made it important for you to bring the case?

There were many things. For example, I have seen drivers lose relationships because of their absence, and their inability to provide no matter how hard they worked. I have seen a young driver whose son suffered from leukaemia but who had to pay rent on his vehicle, and a driver whose anger and bitterness welled up in him and his eyes filled with tears as he told me he had sent his wife and children back to Asia as he no longer could watch the impact of his income insecurity on them. I have also seen drivers sleeping in their cars, drivers who are regularly assaulted and racially abused and nobody cares, and drivers who can never take a day off or a holiday because they can’t afford a day without pay.

What do you expect Uber to do in response to the tribunal?

I expect them to obey the law in spirit and to the letter, especially after the criticism the judge heaped on them for the way they went about setting up their UK business model. I would be very surprised and disappointed if they tried to skirt the law again by making cosmetic changes to paper contracts and trying to convince the public that everything has changed.

The right thing for Uber to do now in terms of its reputation is to accept the judgment and respect the law.

Do you feel the case has ‘broken’ the gig economy, as some have claimed?

No. Uber is pushing the alarm button, but the fact is it is not forced to employ us drivers, and is not forced to remove flexibility. If the gig economy is so fragile that it can’t even sustain basic working rights like the national minimum wage and holiday pay, it looks like there never was an effective gig economy to begin with.

Would you recommend working as an Uber driver?

I surveyed 114 Uber drivers for a survey for Networked Rights, and 59 per cent said they were definitely not ‘happy with and proud to work for Uber’. Just 1 per cent said working for Uber was ‘quite good’. I hope the positive changes Uber now has an opportunity to make will transform these abysmal scores.

Story via – http://www2.cipd.co.uk/pm/peoplemanagement/b/weblog/archive/2016/11/04/the-gig-economy-doesn-t-work-says-victorious-uber-driver.aspx

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