A campaign to win employment rights for Uber drivers is to continue after the taxi firm decided to appeal against a tribunal ruling on the status of workers.
The UK Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) turned down an appeal by the company, which unions described as a “landmark victory” for workers’ rights, especially in the gig economy. Two drivers, James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam, won an employment tribunal case last year after arguing that they were “workers” and entitled to the minimum wage, sick pay and paid leave.
Uber lost its challenge at the EAT, but immediately announced it will appeal, saying almost all taxi and private hire drivers have been self-employed for decades, long before its app existed.
Mr Farrar, 49, said:
“We can’t give up because the case law is so important now that if we give up and give this victory to Uber, then the battle will be so much harder for everybody else that comes after us – not just Uber drivers, but people right across the economy.
“Because if Uber gets away with this, then everywhere you turn in Britain you’ll have people under this sort of fake self-employed conditions, carrying all the risk of the business and have no worker rights.
“This is a line in the sand. Not just for us, but for almost every worker in the United Kingdom.”
Mr Aslam said: “It’s wrong for Uber to drag people like myself through these courts. I suffered a lot, so have so many other drivers. If they want to make things right, just obey the laws.” Tom Elvidge, Uber UK’s acting general manager, said: “The main reason why drivers use Uber is because they value the freedom to choose if, when and where they drive, and so we intend to appeal.
“The tribunal relies on the assertion that drivers are required to take 80% of trips sent to them when logged into the app. As drivers who use Uber know, this has never been the case in the UK.
“Over the last year we have made a number of changes to our app to give drivers even more control. We’ve also invested in things like access to illness and injury cover and we’ll keep introducing changes to make driving with Uber even better.”
Maria Ludkin, legal director of the GMB, which took the original tribunal case, said: “Uber must now face up to its responsibilities and give its workers the rights to which they are entitled.
“GMB urges the company not to waste everyone’s time and money dragging their lost cause to the Supreme Court.” TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Uber should throw in the towel and accept today’s judgment. No company, however big or well-connected, is above the law.”
The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB), which represented the two drivers, said the decision showed firms were depriving employees of their rights. General secretary Jason Moyer-Lee: “Today’s victory is further proof, as if any more was needed, that the law is clear and these companies are simply choosing to deprive workers of their rights.
“These companies are making a mockery of supposed employment rights. The Government needs to properly enforce the law and they need to do it now.”
Chris Bryce, chief executive of the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE), said: “The growing number of employment tribunals linked to the gig economy shows there is a fundamental lack of clarity over what it means to work on your own behalf.
“The Government needs to seriously consider introducing a statutory definition of self-employment. That would bring greater certainty and reduce the need for further tribunals.”