The UK is cracking down on Uber in a “workers’ rights” case that reminds us why America–not Britain–is a beacon for tech innovation and business.
The revolutionary transportation company lost its appeal against an employment tribunal ruling from last year, in which it was decided that the Uber drivers who brought the case should not be classified as self-employed contractors, but as workers.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal heard the case in September and has now ruled to uphold the original verdict, Tech Crunch reports.
Although the original decision and the denial of a first appeal only apply to the limited group of individuals who brought the case against Uber, it sets a precedent that could result in more drivers suing over their “contractor” status.
The drivers heralded the decision as a victory for workers.
“I am glad that the judge today confirmed what I and thousands of drivers have known all along: that Uber is not only exploiting drivers, but also acting unlawfully,” said Yaseen Aslam, one of the drivers in the case. “We will carry on fighting until this exploitation stops and workers’ rights are respected.”
Co-claimant and fellow-driver James Farrar said “Uber cannot go on flouting UK law with impunity and depriving people of their minimum wage rights. We have done everything we can, now it is time for the Mayor of London, Transport for London and the Transport Secretary to step up and use their leverage to defend worker rights rather than turn a blind eye to sweatshop conditions.”
Uber maintains that it would lose “tens of millions” of pounds if it were forced to provide its more than 50,000 drivers in the UK with workers’ rights.
The company can still take the case to the UK’s Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. Tom Price, Uber’s acting UK general manager, uses the argument that taxi drivers have traditionally been contractors. Uber claims to act as nothing more than a platform to connect the driver with those who need a ride.
“The tribunal relies on the assertion that drivers are required to take 80% of trips sent to them when logged into the app,” Price asserted. “As drivers who use Uber know, this has never been the case in the UK. Over the last year we have made a number of changes to our app to give drivers even more control.
“We’ve also invested in things like access to illness and injury cover and we’ll keep introducing changes to make driving with Uber even better.”
The UK is making moves to more highly regulate the “gig economy,” commissioning an independent review last year to come up with recommendations for pushing causes like sick days and minimum wage on tech platforms.
Of course, there’s a downside to all this that the UK’s left-wing politicians fail to grasp. All of these policies would significantly drive up Uber’s prices, severly hurting the booming business.
And if there is no service and willful contractors, then people will lose the “right” to employment.