LONDON — Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey claimed today that using Uber is not “morally acceptable” because of how the company treats its workers.
The MP for Salford and Eccles told the Today programme that she chooses not to use the service as she does not agree with “the way that they are exploiting their workers”.
Long-Bailey was speaking ahead of the launch of the much-anticipated Matthew Taylor review of employment practices in the modern economy. The report is set to lay out what regulations and safeguards the UK government should consider putting in place in order to protect employees of companies with “modern business models”, such as Uber.
The Labour MP said: “Well, I don’t personally use Uber because I don’t feel that it’s morally acceptable, but that’s not to say that they can’t reform their practices.”
Long-Bailey went on to talk about a case last November, where an employment tribunal ruled that Uber drivers counted as “workers”, not independent contractors as Uber claims. That entitles them to more rights, such as minimum wage and holiday pay. Uber is appealing the ruling.
She said: “I don’t like the way that they are exploiting their workers, and I think the recent case proved that in the courts, that suggested that the workers that were there were in fact workers, and they weren’t flexible workers, and they needed to be given the adequate amount of protection and rights that workers enjoy.”
Uber was quick to reject Long-Bailey’s remarks on Tuesday morning. A spokesperson for the company insisted that the way it treats its workers is ethical and transparent. The statement said:
“Millions of people rely on Uber to get around and tens of thousands of drivers use our app to make money on their own terms.
“Almost all taxi and private hire drivers have been self-employed for decades before our app existed and with Uber they have more control. Drivers are totally free to choose if, when and where they drive with no shifts or minimum hours. In fact the main reason people say they sign up to drive with Uber is so they can be their own boss.
“Drivers using Uber made average fares of £15 per hour last year after our service fee and, even after costs, the average driver took home well over the National Living Wage. We’re also proud to have moved things on from this industry’s cash-in-hand past since every fare is electronically recorded, traceable and transparent.”
Prime Minister Theresa May will make a speech at the launch of the Matthew Taylor report today in which she will promise to create a labour market based on the “right balance of rights and responsibilities, flexibilities and protections.”
The prime minister is set to say:
“We will build on the strengths of our labour market. While avoiding overbearing regulation, we will make sure people have the rights and protections they need.
“That means building on our high employment rate and low unemployment rate — and continuing to strive for full employment.
“It means retaining the flexibility that people value, and recognising that most employers treat their staff not just fairly but well.
“It means remaining a home to innovation, new ideas and new business models, and recognising the risks and difficulties which those striving to build their own business face — not just on day one, but every day
“But it also means finding the right balance of rights and responsibilities, flexibilities and protections.”
Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, has claimed that gig economy bosses will “be breathing a sigh of relief” after reading the report. “From what we’ve seen, this review is not the game-changer needed to end insecurity and exploitation at work,” O’Grady said. “We’d welcome any nuggets of good news, but it doesn’t look like the report will shift the balance of power in the modern workplace.”