UK union the GMB has brought two test cases to the Central London Employment Tribunal today to determine if Uber acted unlawfully by not providing its drivers with “basic workers’ rights”, such as holiday pay and a national minimum wage.
This is the first time that Uber's claim that drivers are self-employed has been tested under UK law.
The employment tribunal will also determine another 17 claims brought against the next generation cab firm.
Last year, GMB found that a union member who was an Uber driver received £5.03 an hour for the 234 hours he worked in August. After costs and fees were deducted, his net hourly pay was £1.47 below the national minimum wage. The driver paid £2.65 per hour to Uber.
Justin Bowden, National Secretary at GMB, said: 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."
“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,” said Annie Powell, a lawyer from Leigh Day representing GMB.
“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,” Powell added.
According to an International Business Times report cited by GMB, there are more than 30,000 Uber cabbies in London alone.
Uber has been taken to court numerous times before. This case joins a long list of other cases that question the legality behind its business.
The company service has been banned, partially banned or suspended in many countries including: South Korea, Thailand, Germany, Netherland, and cities in India, USA and Australia, over regulatory issues.
We have contacted Uber for comment.
Jo Bertram, Regional General Manager, Uber UK, told us:
“More than 30,000 people in London drive with our app and this case only involves a very small number. The main reason people choose to partner with Uber is so they can become their own boss, pick their own hours and work completely flexibly.
He claimed "two thirds of new partner drivers joining the Uber platform have been referred by another partner.” ®