After a five-year legal battle, the UK Supreme Court has ruled that Uber drivers are ‘workers’ and therefore qualify for workers’ rights, such as minimum wage and paid annual leave.
The Court found that provisions in Uber drivers’ contracts, which were designed to avoid employment regulations, are unenforceable. The ruling means that Uber drivers are legally at work whenever they are logged onto the Uber app and are entitled to minimum wage and paid annual leave for this time at work.
For more than eight years, Uber has been able to profit from denying its workers basic employment rights. This denial of workers’ rights has allowed Uber to set its fares at such a low level, allowing them to out-compete traditional taxi and private-hire operators.
Even now that a decision has been reached, the drivers have few options to enforce their rights against Uber. As the UK does not have a labour inspectorate, there is no-one to enforce the ruling, meaning that the decision will not automatically be applied to Uber’s entire workforce.
Individual workers will need to take Uber to employment tribunals in order to obtain the compensation to which they are entitled. This also applies to other gig economy workers who will now need to undertake a separate legal process if they wish to obtain the basic workers’ rights under UK law.
Despite the fact that the ruling is clearly intended to apply to all Uber drivers, Uber’s Regional General Manager for Northern and Eastern Europe has already said the decision was “focussed on a small number of drivers who used the Uber app in 2016” and “since then we have made some significant changes to our business”.
It is obvious that Uber has no intentions of changing its business model to comply with the court ruling. This is a clear demonstration of why bourgeois justice is ineffective in protecting the rights of workers.
The majority of Uber drivers simply don’t have either the money or legal experience necessary to bring a claim before the employment tribunal. Additionally, the lack of a dedicated enforcement body means that many gig economy workers will continue to be paid below minimum wage, despite the ruling.
The laws requiring employers to pay statutory minimum wage and ensure all workers receive paid annual leave are not new, and yet companies will look for any possible legal loopholes to avoid giving their workers these basic rights. When large companies decide to do this, there is very little that the lone worker can do to fight back.
Clearly, gig economy workers cannot rely on the legal system to protect their basic rights and must instead organise and fight back against the bosses (and their stooges in the government) to achieve their demands:
- Workers must receive minimum wage and annual leave!
- Compensation for workers who have been historically underpaid!
- No detriment for whistleblowing where companies break employment law!
- A dedicated enforcement body, democratically controlled by the workers themselves, to enforce labour laws and protect workers’ rights!