An employment tribunal case brought by Uber drivers against the cab-hailing app kicks off in London on Friday.
It’s the preliminary hearing of a case brought by four drivers arguing that they should be granted “worker status” by Uber, which would entitle them to benefits such as holiday pay and maternity leave. Drivers are currently classified as independent contractors.
Steve Garelick, branch secretary for professional drivers at union GMB, is working with the four drivers and told Business Insider that this is a “test case”, with “many more to come” if this is successful.
Garelick told BI: “I’m angry with Uber because they’re ignoring the rules that everyone else has to follow. It’s cheeky. It’s just naughty.”
“Uber expect things from drivers, but it’s not a two-way street. The problem is when you’re self-employed you don’t have any rights, but they want their drivers to follow their rules.”
Garelick says the fact that Uber controls a driver’s route, and penalises them if they refuse too many jobs over a period, makes them employers.
“The whole point is drivers are supposed to be able to turn down jobs,” he says. “You’re in a situation where you can’t turn down jobs or you’ll get tossed off the platform.”
A spokesperson for Uber told BI over email:
The main reason thousands of professional drivers choose to partner with Uber is so they can become their own boss, pick their own hours and work completely flexibly. In fact many partner-drivers have left other lines of work and chosen to partner with Uber for this very reason. Two thirds of new partner-drivers joining the Uber platform have been referred by another partner because they love the freedom and flexibility the service provides.” – Uber spokesperson.
The case has similar motions to one in the US, where Uber is currently fighting multiple drivers on whether they are legally employees or contractors. Seattle’s City Council this week unanimously voted to allow Uber, Lyft, taxi, and other for-hire drivers to unionize, something up until now they couldn’t do because of their union status.
Earlier this year Uber won a High Court judgment on whether its app counts as a taximeter (it doesn’t).
DLA Piper, one of the biggest law firms in the world, is understood to be acting for Uber in the current case while employment and discrimination lawyer Nigel Mackay of Leigh Day is representing the drivers.