NEWS: ‘Landmark ruling’ against Uber after drivers win rights

Uber will have to change its contracts to give workers’ their rights, the GMB lawyer fighting the case for drivers predicted after the transport giant lost its appeal today at the employment appeal tribunal.

The EAT in central London rejected Uber’s appeal it brought against last year’s ruling determining that Uber drivers are not self-employed, but workers entitled to basic workers' rights. These rights include holiday pay, a guaranteed minimum wage and an entitlement to breaks.

The number of GMB Uber drivers represented by GMB who win their rights under today’s ruling is 68.

But, legal director at GMB, Maria Ludkin, told Safety Management she ‘fully anticipated’ that the ruling will have to soon apply to all drivers.

“Uber have announced they will appeal so it will go to the Court of Appeal. If they lose again they’ll go to the Supreme Court – they’re going to throw money at this. But the reality is – if the ruling remains as it is – which I fully anticipate, then that means that the current state of the contracts of all Uber drivers is illegal.”

She said Uber would then be forced to change the contracts they offer as existing contracts would be rendered void.

“All of those drivers will [in the case of Uber losing] be able to bring claims for unpaid holiday and sickness pay and discrimination claims, any claims of deductions from earnings, if they haven’t been earning national minimum wage. They will be able to back claim to Uber for everything they are owed for up to six years. So Uber will have to completely change its contracts.”

"This landmark decision is a yet more vindication of GMB's campaign to ensure drivers are given the rights they are entitled to - and that the public, drivers and passengers are kept safe,” she added.

Uber has up to 40,000 drivers on its books in London alone, where the company has recently been stripped of its licence to continue operating partly on the grounds of safety. TfL said in a statement back in September that: "Uber’s approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications.”

But the beleaguered £51 billion San-Francisco company said it would appeal the latest ruling. 

Tom Elvidge, Uber UK’s acting general manager, commented: “Almost all taxi and private hire drivers have been self-employed for decades, long before our app existed.

 “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.”

Frances O’Grady, the TUC general secretary, said: “Uber should throw in the towel and accept today’s judgment. No company, however big or well-connected, is above the law. Uber must play by the rules and stop denying its drivers basic rights at work.”