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GMB trade union takes Uber to court

Uber is unlawfully denying their drivers fundamental rights as workers, says GMB, the union for private hire drivers.

GMB is bringing two test cases to the Central London Employment Tribunal, to determine whether Uber is acting unlawfully by not providing drivers with basic workers’ rights.

The Tribunal will determine whether Uber drivers should be entitled to receive holiday pay, a guaranteed minimum wage and an entitlement to breaks. The result of the Tribunal could have major implications for the more than 30,000 drivers in London and across England and Wales and for workers in other occupations, and is the first time Uber will have faced legal action in the UK over whether their drivers are workers or self-employed.

The hearing will see cases brought by GMB using law firm Leigh Day which will have an impact on a further 17 claims that have been brought against Uber. GMB found last year that a member working exclusively for Uber received just £5.03 per hour in August after costs and fees were taken into account, significantly below the national minimum wage. Lawyers for the drivers will also claim that Uber acts unlawfully by frequently deducting sums from drivers’ pay, often without informing the drivers in advance, including when customers make complaints.

Justin Bowden, GMB National Secretary, said: "The bogus classification of self-employment is a growing problem, where employment laws exist then every employer must be required to follow them. GMB is proud to be bringing this claim against Uber and challenging the growing and pernicious practice by companies of wrongly claiming that workers are self-employed. Uber drivers face very difficult working conditions and with cuts to fares we believe that some of our members are taking home less than the national minimum wage when you take into account the costs of running a car.

GMB believes this could pose a safety risk to drivers, their passengers and other road users as some drivers are forced into working longer and longer hours in order to make ends meet, at the same time as being unable to take any paid holiday or have an entitlement to rest breaks that other workers have."

Annie Powell, a lawyer in the employment team at Leigh Day, said: "Uber currently denies that its drivers are entitled to the most basic of workers’ rights. Uber’s defence is that it is just a technology company, not a taxi company, and that Uber drivers do not work for Uber but instead work for themselves as self-employed business men and women.

We will argue that Uber exerts significant control over its drivers in order to provide an on-demand taxi service to the public. If Uber wishes to operate in this way, and to reap the substantial benefits, then it must acknowledge its responsibilities towards those drivers as workers.

This claim is vital for the thousands of Uber drivers who work in England and Wales and has implications even wider than that. We are seeing a creeping erosion of employment rights as companies misclassify their workers as self-employed so as to avoid paying them holiday pay and the national minimum wage."