Uber reaches first global union deal for UK drivers
US cycling giant Uber on Wednesday announced a “historic” pact with a British union to represent its 70,000 drivers in the UK, after a court ruling granted them workers’ rights.
The GMB union said the collective agreement “shows that odd-job companies don’t have to be a wild west on the untamed frontier of labor rights.”
“When private hire companies and tech unions work together in this way, everyone benefits – bringing decent and secure employment back into the world of work,” Mick Rix, head of GMB, said in a statement.
“We are now calling on all other operators to follow suit.”
Uber has given official recognition to the union – which has 620,000 members in various industries – following a ruling by the UK Supreme Court in February.
A month later, Uber complied by granting its UK drivers worker status with perks, including minimum wage and paid time off.
It represented a radical change in the business model of a company that had argued in UK courts and elsewhere that its drivers were self-employed independents, and which had resisted similar reforms in California.
“While Uber and GMB may not seem like obvious allies, we have always agreed that drivers should come first, and today we have reached this important agreement to improve worker protection,” said Jamie Heywood, Uber Europe framework.
Noting the company’s previous commitments to UK employee benefits, he said “this landmark deal means Uber will be the first in the industry to ensure its drivers are also fully represented by unions.”
Uber said it will support UK drivers if they choose to register as GMB members, and union representatives will have access to company support sites to encourage membership drives.
– California’s ‘fear tactics’ –
The changes in Britain came as Uber faced slippery driver bookings due to the Covid-19 pandemic, despite strong demand for its Uber Eats food delivery service during national lockdowns.
But despite the higher commercial costs resulting from the court ruling, Uber says it doesn’t expect the changes to affect its bottom line this year.
“The future of work is too big a problem for a one-size-fits-all solution, and that’s OK,” Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi wrote in London’s Evening Standard newspaper in March.
Khosrowshahi has already argued for a “third way” of classifying on-demand workers, rather than as employees or independent contractors.
The UK Supreme Court ruling came shortly after California’s highest court upheld a referendum that allowed “construction workers” like Uber drivers to be treated as independent contractors.
Proposition 22 – passed in November and heavily backed by Uber, Lyft, and other app-based delivery services – effectively struck down a state law requiring them to reclassify their drivers and provide employee benefits.
But American labor groups such as the International Union of Service Employees have continued their campaigns. The SEIU said Uber’s decision to grant worker status to UK drivers debunked the “fear tactics” of ridesharing companies in California.
In a first for the European Union, the Spanish government announced in March an agreement that will recognize passengers working for food delivery companies such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats as employees following complaints about their working conditions. .
In Italy, prosecutors told Uber Eats and other food delivery platforms that their couriers were employees, not self-employed, fining them € 733 million for violating safety rules work.