Uber has been granted the right to appeal against last year’s landmark ruling that its UK minicab drivers should be treated as employed workers with rights to the minimum wage and sick pay.
The employment appeals tribunal in London has set a date for a two-day hearing starting on 27 September. The San Francisco-based company will argue its 40,000 currently self-employed drivers in Britain are free to work when and where they want and enjoy more flexibility than traditional private-hire drivers who are self-employed.
It represents a rare piece of good news for the company, which has been valued at $70bn but has been hit by controversies including allegations of sexual discrimination at its head office; its founder, Travis Kalanick, shouting at a driver who was complaining to him about exploitation; and allegations that David Cameron tried to protect the company from tougher regulation proposed by the London mayor’s office.
The case centres on two Uber drivers, James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam, who took Uber to court on behalf of a group 19 others who argued they were employed rather than working for themselves. Uber’s business model has been based on treating drivers who log on to its app as self-employed contractors and taking a cut of their fares, which the company dictates.
At the very least, gaining the right to appeal delays the need for Uber to make a fundamental change to its business model in Britain. The decision was welcomed by a spokesman. “The vast majority of drivers who use Uber tell us they want to remain their own boss as that’s the main reason why they signed up to us in the first place,” he said.
The GMB trade union, which is backing Farrer and Aslam, said it would continue to fight. “Whilst we fully respect the higher court’s interest in this extraordinarily important case about bogus self-employment, we remain 100% confident that the courts will uphold the original judgment that these drivers have employed worker status,” said Maria Ludkin, GMB’s legal director.
The lower-tier employment tribunal was scathing in its judgment last October, ruling that drivers who used Uber’s phone app to pick up fares were not self-employed.
“The notion that Uber in London is a mosaic of 30,000 small businesses linked by a common ‘platform’ is to our minds faintly ridiculous,” they said. “Drivers do not and cannot negotiate with passengers … They are offered and accept trips strictly on Uber’s terms.”
Uber’s lead barrister, Dinah Rose QC, will argue that the tribunal made “inconsistent and perverse findings” and “erred in law”, according to Uber’s notice of appeal.
Uber granted right to appeal against ruling on UK drivers’ rights – The Guardian