Hundreds of ‘precarious workers’ have gathered outside the Royal Courts of Justice as Uber appeals against its drivers’ right to minimum wage and paid holiday. The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) organised the protest in central London to hit out at the company for ‘fighting to not have to give basic employment rights’ to their drivers. IWGB general secretary Jason Moyer-Lee said: ‘Today’s action is the articulation of the legitimate rage of the precarious workers and the exploited workers of the UK.
‘Uber have already lost two court battles. They’re fighting to not have to give minimum wage and paid holidays and pensions and other basic employment rights to the drivers who work for them.’
Last November, the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) dismissed Uber’s appeal against a tribunal ruling in October 2016 that former drivers Yaseen Aslam and James Farrar were ‘workers’ at the time they were operating for Uber. But an Uber spokeswoman said before Tuesday’s hearing that the company believed the EAT ‘fundamentally misunderstood how we operate’, adding: ‘Almost all taxi and private hire drivers have been self-employed for decades, long before our app existed. ‘A recent Oxford University study found that drivers make more than the London Living Wage [£10.20 an hour] and want to keep the freedom to choose if, when and where they drive. ‘If drivers were classed as workers they would inevitably lose some of the freedom and flexibility that comes with being their own boss.’
Chair of the House of Commons work and pensions select committee Frank Field said ‘precarious workers have clearly had enough’. Mr Field said the Uber drivers ‘began this three years ago and the boss class are stretching it out with appeals’. He added: ‘They can afford to. Uber are rich enough to put themselves above the law.’ Communication Workers Union general secretary Dave Ward told the crowd on Tuesday: ‘This is the defining issue of our time.
He added: ‘What you are doing is a wake-up call for the whole trade union movement. ‘As a movement, trade unions have got to agree a common bargaining agenda to root out every single employer in this country who organises itself on the exploitation of workers and insecure work.’ Trade union GMB, which is also involved in the case, said Uber drivers are estimated to be an average of £18,000 out of pocket two years after the initial employment tribunal said drivers were entitled to holiday pay and the minimum wage. Sue Harris, legal director at GMB, said: ‘While the company are wasting money losing appeal after appeal, their drivers are up to £18,000 out of pocket for the last two years alone.
‘That’s thousands of drivers struggling to pay their rent, or feed their families. It’s time Uber admits defeat and pays up.’ Lawyers for the drivers said the outcome of the case could have ‘highly significant’ consequences for ‘millions of workers in the gig economy’. Paul Jennings, a partner at Bates Wells which represents Mr Aslan and Mr Farrar, said: ‘The financial implications of this judgment could be very significant.’ Rachel Mathieson, an associate at the same firm, added: ‘The consequences of this case are likely to be highly significant for not just tens of thousands of Uber drivers but millions of workers in the gig economy.’