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Uber drivers can now unionise after ride biz recognises GMB, one of the UK's largest trade unions

Not everyone is celebrating

Uber has officially recognized the trade union GMB, clearing the way for as many as 70,000 Uber drivers in the UK to collectively bargain for higher wages and better working conditions.

GMB has fought the ride-hailing app for years, and supported a legal fight that resulted in the UK Supreme Court declaring in February that Uber's drivers are workers and not self-employed contractors.

“History has been made,” GMB’s National Officer Mick Rix said this week. “This ground-breaking deal between GMB and Uber could be the first step to a fairer working life for millions of people.”

This essentially means Uber's workers in the UK can unionize and be represented by GMB. The deal doesn't cover workers for Uber Eats.

What benefits and remuneration those union members will have, however, remains to be seen. Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, Uber said it will pay its drivers at least the minimum wage, with caveats, and offer them set holidays and a pension. They will also get free insurance to cover any work-related illnesses or injuries.

Still, its drivers can join the GMB and bargain for more. For example, the union wants to be able to support drivers that have been deactivated by Uber and barred from its driver app. It will meet with execs from the company to discuss issues every quarter.

“Whilst Uber and GMB may not seem like obvious allies, we’ve always agreed that drivers must come first, and today we have struck this important deal to improve workers’ protections,” said Jamie Heywood, Uber's Regional General Manager for Northern and Eastern Europe.

“Under the terms of this deal, Uber will now formally recognise GMB. Drivers won’t automatically become members and, for GMB representation, will have to sign up through the usual channels.”

Other unions, such as the smaller App Drivers & Couriers Union (ACDU), however, aren’t convinced recognition is good enough. “At this time ADCU is not prepared to enter into a recognition agreement with Uber,” Yaseen Aslam and James Farrar, President and General Secretary, respectively, of the ACDU, who are the lead claimants in the Uber Supreme Court case, said.

“This is because Uber continues to violate basic employment law such as the right to minimum wage and holiday for all working time despite the recent UK Supreme Court ruling found in our favour.” The ACDU believes drivers should be paid for their time in between rides, such as when finding new passengers to pick up. Uber just wants to pay drivers for the time when they are ferrying people from A to B.

The pair said Uber is still fighting against the Supreme Court ruling, too. “Recently, Uber applied for declaratory relief from the High Court that its business model was not in violation of transport regulations despite commentary suggesting the opposite by Lord Leggatt in the Supreme Court ruling. We intend to intervene in this case to defend our Supreme Court victory.”

The Register has asked Uber for comment.

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