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Uber loses UK legal battle over drivers' rights

Saturday, October 29, 2016 - 07:36

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Ride-sharing cab service Uber on Friday lost a British tribunal case brought by drivers demanding basic workers' rights, in a decision that could have repercussions across the "gig economy".

[LONDON] Ride-sharing cab service Uber on Friday lost a British tribunal case brought by drivers demanding basic workers' rights, in a decision that could have repercussions across the "gig economy".

The Central London Employment Tribunal ruled in favour of two drivers who argued that they should receive holiday and sick pay and be paid Britain's national minimum wage as they were effectively employees of the California-based tech company.

They were supported by the GMB union, who said the decision could have "major" implications for around 30,000 drivers across England and Wales.

"We are delighted that the employment tribunal has found in favour of our clients," Nigel Mackay from law firm Leigh Day said after the decision.

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"This judgment acknowledges the central contribution that Uber's drivers have made to Uber's success by confirming that its drivers are not self-employed but that they work for Uber as part of the company's business."

Self-employed workers in Britain are not entitled to certain rights and privileges, including paid leave and the minimum wage.

Uber, whose European headquarters is in the Netherlands, argued that British drivers should not be allowed to enforce employment rights in British courts but make their claims in Dutch courts instead.

The company's UK regional general manager, Jo Bertram, said Uber would appeal against the ruling.

"Tens of thousands of people in London drive with Uber precisely because they want to be self-employed and their own boss," she said in a statement.

She added: "While the decision of this preliminary hearing only affects two people, we will be appealing it."

The cab hire service has been accused of violating employment rights in other countries.

In April 2016, Uber drivers in California and Massachusetts filed a lawsuit against the company claiming they had been misclassified as independent contractors.

But before the trial could begin in California, the company paid US$100 million to the drivers to settle the lawsuit.

Uber is a cab service company that connects passengers to drivers through an app on its passengers' smartphones. Customers pay Uber directly for the journey and the company, in turn, remunerates drivers.

Employment lawyers warned Friday's ruling could affect other workers who have flexible hours but no labour benefits.

"This landmark decision will not only have huge financial implications for Uber and its drivers... but also the many other companies which operate within the so-called 'gig economy'," said Julie Morris, a senior employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon solicitors firm in London.

"They will now have to review their business model or face a deluge of similar claims from workers."

AFP

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