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Why the GMB’s win against Uber is a seriously big deal

29 Oct , 2016  

This week, the courts ruled in favour of Uber drivers against the company Uber. This is being heralded as one of the biggest wins in an employment case for decades. Why?

Uber claim to just be a technology firm, with an app and that’s it. Ask anyone on the street who Uber are and you know you’d hear the opposite: Uber are a taxi firm.

Last week’s court case came as a result of workers coming together and demanding Uber to admit that it is an employer. If Uber is recognised as an employer of drivers and not just a technology service, then it must then take responsibility of the conditions of its workers. Currently, taxi drivers who use the app have no guarantee from Uber of work or holiday pay.

GMB General Secretary Tim Roache said, “More often than not, the companies behind service apps refuse to recognise their role and responsibilities as employers of their workers. They prefer to think of themselves as the facilitators of work rather than employers. For the workers that means no holiday pay, no maternity or paternity rights, no guaranteed minimum wage. It’s zero hours contracts on speed, but not a new issue in and of itself. It’s an age old problem of employers finding loopholes to drive down wages, terms and conditions while keeping their profit margins healthy. Instead of workers turning up to the docks or factory gates to find out if there is work, they now sit by the phone and wait for jobs to come in. It’s old style exploitation but in the 21st century it’s exerted by algorithms and mobile phones.

This is not about arguing against change – we’d be completely swimming against the tide – this is about a decent standard of life for people who are working incredibly hard but not making much. One Uber driver we spoke to – who was working exclusively for Uber – earned just over £5 an hour. That’s not legal. Uber are making their hefty profits on the backs of their drivers. Where’s the sick pay? The annual leave? The security of knowing that you’ll get a decent wage?”

The court ruling told Uber that they do have a responsibility for their workers – it’s now time to see how Uber will step up and deliver what every worker should be entitled to – a decent wage and decent terms and conditions.

This is a huge win for Uber drivers, workers who use app technology and the GMB. Congratulations from Young Labour.

Do you work for Uber? Are you a member of the GMB? You can join here.

Jargon buster:

GMB – a general trade union in the UK.

Trade union – A trade union is an organisation or group of workers who join together to negotiate pay, hours, benefits, and working conditions.

General Secretary – usually used for a leader of a trade union.

Terms and conditions – covers sick pay, holiday entitlement, maternity or paternity leave.

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