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Uber faces UK legal action from drivers

Ride sharing enterprise, Uber, faces court action in the UK on behalf of drivers who claim they should receive basic worker's rights

Posted on 29 July 2015

The San Francisco company behind the taxi and transportation service Uber, is facing legal action in the UK on behalf of British drivers who claim the ride sharing enterprise does not provide them with basic workers’ rights.

The legal action is being brought by law firm Leigh Day, acting on behalf of GMB union, who argue that Uber does not currently ensure that its drivers are paid minimum wage or that they receive paid holiday.

Currently Uber does not provide its drivers with the rights normally afforded to workers, claiming instead that they are ‘partners’. Uber operates a car hire platform that connects passengers to thousands of drivers through an app on the passenger’s smartphone.

Using the app, passengers can request they are picked up from any location within London (or 300 other cities worldwide).

Passengers pay Uber for the journey, which then passes on a percentage of that payment to the driver. Lawyers claim that not only are there breaches of employment law but also that there are serious health and safety issues as currently Uber does not ensure its drivers take rest breaks or work a maximum number of hours per week.

They argue this provides a substantial risk to all road users given that, according to Uber’s CEO, there will be 42,000 Uber drivers in London in 2016.

As well as this, there have been reports of drivers being suspended or deactivated by Uber after having made complaints about unlawful treatment, without being given any opportunity to challenge this.

The law requires that workers should not be denied the right to work for raising these issues. A successful legal action against Uber could see substantial pay outs for drivers, including compensation for past failures by the company to make appropriate payments to what lawyers argue are their workers.

Nigel Mackay a lawyer in the employment team at Leigh Day explained: “Uber not only pays the drivers but it also effectively controls how much passengers are charged and requires drivers to follow particular routes. As well as this, it uses a ratings system to assess drivers’ performance.

“We believe that it’s clear from the way Uber operates that it owes the same responsibilities towards its drivers as any other employer does to its workers. In particular, its drivers should not be denied the right to minimum wage and paid leave. “Uber should also take responsibility for its drivers, making sure they take regular rest breaks.

“If Uber wishes to operate in this way, and to reap the substantial benefits, then it must acknowledge its responsibilities towards its drivers and the public.”

Steve Garelick from the Professional Drivers Branch of the GMB, and Branch Secretary, said: “The need for a union to defend working drivers’ rights has become an imperative.

“Operators must understand that they have an ethical and social policy that matches societies expectations of fair and honest treatment.

“For far too long drivers have been considered almost ‘Ghosts’ by the public who do not see them as educated or with the same needs, aspirations and desires as themselves.”