Socialist Worker

Court rules Uber drivers are workers not self-employed

by Sophie Squire
Issue No. 2743

Uber drivers win in court but only action can make change

Uber drivers win in court but only action can make change (Pic: Flickr)


The Supreme Court has ruled that drivers for taxi ­company Uber are now classed as workers.

It means some drivers for the company will be entitled to sick pay, holiday, maternity leave and a minimum wage.

Legal action was brought against the company by former drivers James Farrer and Yaseen Aslam who took Uber to an employment tribunal over the issue in 2016.

Uber appealed and tried to prove that drivers for the company are self-employed and control their own hours.

But Uber tightly restricts what drivers do once they log into their app.

And an algorithm manages their time and performance.

Dependency 

The court found that drivers at Uber are in a “position of subordination and dependency to Uber”.

It shows the autonomy that ­businesses like Uber say workers have is a lie. Claiming that ­workers are self-employed allows ­companies to further exploit them.

Currently the ruling only applies to the 25 drivers that were ­claimants against Uber, but it will allow thousands of others to make similar claims.

The App Drivers and Couriers Union (ADCU) said, “The court handed down a unanimous decision from six judges who heard the case and there was no dissenting opinion.

“This is a landmark decision that will fundamentally re-order the gig economy in Britain.”

It’s certainly a step forward, but drivers at Uber don’t have to wait for court rulings to push for a minimum wage and better ­conditions. Organisation by ­workers can ensure gains are made real and permanent.

During the pandemic workers for Uber and its food delivery service Uber Eats have kept the company afloat after it made massive financial losses in 2019. But many have been struggling financially.

‘Worker status’ is not good enough
‘Worker status’ is not good enough
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Farrar said, “We’re seeing many of our members earning £30 gross a day right now,” due to the ­assistance available for self‑employed workers.

And a number have died after contracting Covid-19.

One driver, Rajesh Jayaseelan, reportedly starved in the weeks before his death and hid his ­symptoms out of fear of eviction.

The TUC estimated that five ­million people worked in the gig economy in Britain in 2019.

And this figure is likely to have risen in 2020 and will continue to rise this year.

Despite challenging conditions, a fightback is possible.

Deliveroo workers—who are also considered to be “self‑employed”—went on strike in Sheffield last year. They were able to bring food delivery services largely to a standstill.

The court decision is a welcome step to improving the conditions and pay for those in the sector.

But only action by workers will turn the tide for all those trapped in the gig economy.


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