GMB Uber Drivers Protest That Thomson Reuters Is Excluding Them From London Debate On 24th Sept On The Law And “Uberification”
Thomson Reuters asked questions to determine our suitability and then decided we were unsuitable knowing our legal dispute with Uber and our union membership says GMB driver.
GMB members who drive for Uber are protesting that Thomson Reuters is excluding them from a debate being held in London on 24 September 2015 on the issue of the law and Uber. See notes to editors for copy of details of the Thomson Reuters debate.
These GMB Uber drivers have instructed Leigh Day to take legal action against that company on the grounds that Uber is in breach of a legal duty to provide them with basic rights on pay, holidays, health and safety and on discipline and grievances. See notes to editors for two recent GMB press releases on the legal action and pay for Uber drivers.
One GMB driver wrote to Thomson Reuters to protest at their exclusion as follows: “I am writing to complain in strongest possible terms of your treatment of GMB union members regarding your Uberification debate.
I and a number of colleagues have initiated legal proceedings against Uber for violation of worker rights. We have done so peacefully and within the boundaries of the law.
I was shocked then to be denied registration as audience member. I assume this decision on was taken at Uber's insistence. These debates are important for formation of public opinion but Thomson Reuters has proved itself an unworthy custodian in this case. Your actions discredit your journalistic credentials for commercial gain.”
Thomson Reuters replied as follows: “I am sorry to that you are disappointed at being unable to attend - as predicted this has proved to be a very popular event.
I’ve spoken to the organizers within our Legal business unit, and they confirm that we are limited by the numbers of people we can accommodate and we have reached capacity.
As I’m sure you will also appreciate that first we had to give priority to our own clients at whom this event was always targeted, as you too are also aware.
It is not accurate, or fair, to assume that this decision has anything to do with any of the panelists as you imply in your email. It’s simply a decision we have had to take as organizers based on the volume of interest received.
Whilst I appreciate this is disappointing, I hope you will follow the debate online and we will be happy to send you a link to the recording afterwards.”
The response of the GMB driver to this reply is as follows: “I don't accept the explanation as truthful I'm afraid and it just has the effect of me taking an even dimmer view of your actions.
First: If the event was oversubscribed then why did you not say so at first request ? Instead you asked questions to determine our suitability and then decided we were unsuitable knowing our status with Uber and our GMB membership. Given we are in dispute with Uber over denial of rights your actions speaks to your evident bias.
Second: Even if the event was oversubscribed (which it wasn't or you would have said so at first ask)/you should + could have prioritized our attendance in the interests of fairness and social responsibility. The fact you have not shows an intent to stack the decks and manufacture a desired opinion outcome
You have still not answered whether Uber is a sponsor, prospective or past business partner or if you have consulted them on this decision.
More positively, your handling of this matter itself is a case study in Uberification the subject at hand ---ie. to manage and control commercially sought opinion, shut down any dissenting view.”
For Leigh Day David Standard 07540 332717 or Nigel Mackay on 020 7650 1155
Notes to editors
1 Details of the Thomson Reuters event:
Date: 24 September 2015 | Location: THOMSON REUTERS, LONDON | Time: 6.00PM
Join leading minds from the law, politics and business for an intelligent debate on regulation and the sharing economy
About the Debate
For the motion:
Jonathan Swift QC, 11KBW
Against the motion:
Mark MacGann, Head of Public Policy, EMEA, Uber
Fraser Nelson, Editor, The Spectator
Axel Threlfall, Editor at Large, Reuters
Should the Law be used to stop ‘Uberification’?
Is Uber a threat to passenger safety? Is Uber skirting around taxi firm regulations or were these existing laws benefitting a small group of vested interests at the expense of the wider public? Does Airbnb fall foul of local housing laws and regulations? Are they unfairly avoiding hotel or tourist tax that commercial operators are forced to pay?
Airbnb and Uber say they are examples of innovation, addressing a decades-old business model, which choked supply and hindered innovation, perhaps also willfully restricting consumer choice.
Uber offers cities dynamic, diverse and flexible transport options, in addition to empowering those who want to work hard and for themselves. Airbnb forces hoteliers to offer more competitive pricing and service.
Perhaps Airbnb and Uber accept they will eventually face externally imposed constraints, but by then will they have seen off many rivals and be dominant in whatever the relevant market definition is judicially determined to be?
Should not every business or profession accept that change will always come and disrupt industry sectors? Will focusing on staving off innovation by pleading laws to judges, city officials or the public preserve your group’s interests in the long term?
The new P2P platforms are empowering people to share assets, but could over regulation be a fatal blow to the ‘sharing economy’?
Come and listen to our speakers battle it out on 24 September to make up your own mind.
There are limited spaces, so do register early to avoid disappointment.
Speakers subject to change.
2 GMB press release dated 27 July 2015
LEIGH DAY LEGAL ACTION FOR GMB UBER DRIVERS TO SECURE RIGHTS ON PAY, HOLIDAYS, HEALTH AND SAFETY, DISCIPLINE AND GRIEVANCES
The Uber assertion that drivers are “partners” who are not entitled to rights at work normally afforded to workers will be legally contested in court says GMB
GMB, the union for professional drivers, has instructed Leigh Day to take legal action in the UK on behalf of members driving for Uber on the grounds that Uber is in breach of a legal duty to provide them with basic rights on pay, holidays, health and safety and on discipline and grievances.
GMB is contesting the Uber assertion that drivers are “partners” so are not entitled to rights normally afforded to workers.
Uber operates a car hire platform that connects passengers to thousands of drivers through an app on the passenger’s smartphone.
Using the app, passengers can request they are picked up from any location within London (or 300 other cities worldwide). Passengers pay Uber for the journey, which then passes on a percentage of that payment to the driver.
GMB claim that Uber should conform to employment law as follows:
· Uber should ensure that its drivers are paid the national minimum wage and that they receive their statutory entitlement to paid holiday. Currently Uber does not ensure these rights for its drivers
· Uber should address serious health and safety issues. Currently Uber does not ensure its drivers take rest breaks or work a maximum number of hours per week. GMB content that this provides a substantial risk to all road users given that, according to Uber’s CEO, there will be 42,000 Uber drivers in London in 2016.
· Uber should adhere to legal standards on discipline and grievances. Currently drivers have being suspended or deactivated by Uber after having made complaints about unlawful treatment, without being given any opportunity to challenge this.
Nigel Mackay, a lawyer in the employment team at Leigh Day, said “The Uber assertion that drivers are “partners” who are not entitled to rights at work normally afforded to workers is being contested.
Uber not only pays the drivers but it also effectively controls how much passengers are charged and requires drivers to follow particular routes. As well as this, it uses a ratings system to assess drivers’ performance.
We believe that it’s clear from the way Uber operates that it owes the same responsibilities towards its drivers as any other employer does to its workers. In particular, its drivers should not be denied the right to minimum wage and paid leave.
Uber should also take responsibility for its drivers, making sure they take regular rest breaks.
If Uber wishes to operate in this way, and to reap the substantial benefits, then it must acknowledge its responsibilities towards its drivers and the public.
A successful legal action against Uber could see substantial pay outs for drivers, including compensation for past failures by the company to make appropriate payments to who we argue are their workers.”
Steve Garelick, Branch Secretary of GMB Professional Drivers Branch, said “The need for a union to defend working drivers’ rights has become an imperative.
Operators like Uber must understand that they have an ethical and social policy that matches societies’ expectations of fair and honest treatment.
For far too long the public have considered drivers as almost ‘ghosts”. They are not seen as educated or with the same needs, aspirations and desires as the rest of the public.”
3 Copy of GMB press release dated 7th September 2015
GMB LONDON UBER DRIVER MEMBER PAID £1.47 PER HOUR BELOW MINIMUM WAGE FOR 234 HOURS IN AUGUST AS UNION SEEKS TRIBUNAL RULING ON UNDERPAYMENT
Union plans to recover underpayment on the national minimum wage as part of the Tribunal claim that Uber drivers are directed workers says GMB Professional Drivers
A GMB member who works exclusively for Uber as a cab driver in London was paid £5.03 net per hour for 234 hours driving during August calendar month. This is £1.47 per hour below the national minimum wage of £6.50 per hour. For each hour he worked the fees he paid to Uber were £2.65 per hour which equated to 53% of his net pay per hour.
In July GMB, the union for professional drivers, announced that it had instructed Leigh Day to take legal action in the UK on behalf of members driving for Uber on the grounds that Uber is in breach of a legal duty to provide them with basic rights on pay, holidays, health and safety and on raising complaints. See notes to editors for copy of GMB press release and copy of article from the Times on this litigation.
GMB is asking Uber drivers to keep detailed records of income and expenditure so that underpayment of the national minimum wage can be recovered as part of the Tribunal claim that Uber drivers are directed workers and thereby covered by legislation on pay, holidays, health and safety and on raising complaints.
Set out in the table is a summary of the details of total income and expenditure and hours worked by this GMB member. GMB is happy to share the details with media outlets.
Total income from all sources working for Uber
Less Uber fees
Less other expenditure
Pay for August
Total hours in August
Pay per hour
Uber fees per hour
Other expenditure includes: Licensing; MOT; Road Tax; Servicing / Maintenance; TfL Inspection; Car Finance; Fuel; Insurance; Parking; Uber deductions.
Steve Garelick , Secretary of the GMB professional drivers branch, said " In August this GMB cab driver working for Uber kept detailed records of time spent driving and his income and his expenditure.
Taking into account his expenditure, this GMB member was paid £5.03 for every hour he worked in August. Fees he paid to Uber were £2.65 for every hour he worked or 53% of his hourly pay.
The hourly pay is below the national minimum wage of £6.50. If TfL keep issuing new licenses and Uber keep expanding - driving down fares, upping commissions - this will only get worse.
This fall in drivers incomes poses a threat to public safety. This is because as driver incomes fall they have to work more hours to make the same money. Uber don’t control hours and neither do TFL. Drivers fatigue is a huge public safety and occupational risk.
GMB plan to recover underpayment on the national minimum wage as part of the Tribunal claim that Uber drivers are directed workers.
We want all Uber drivers to keep detailed records so that we can recover the underpayment for them."
Notes to editors
1 Copy of article in the Times
Future of Uber is in the hands of the courts
Published at 12:01AM, September 3 2015
Employment status, particularly where technology allows for new, complex working arrangements, is key to the outcome.
Serious legal problems are piling up for Uber. There is a law suit in Canada and a recent ruling in California in which a judge has granted class-action status to a lawsuit by three Uber drivers against the international taxi booking company.
Now there are also legal proceedings to be issued later this month in the UK, launched by the GMB union on behalf of drivers.
At stake in the UK and US cases is the status of Uber drivers — are they workers or employees, as opposed to independent contractors? For Uber, any court that answers “yes” may badly hurt its basic business model.
The GMB claims that Uber is denying its drivers basic workers’ rights to which they are entitled, including the right to the national minimum wage, holiday pay and rest breaks, by classifying them as self-employed “business partners” rather than “workers’ or ‘employees”. The case gives prominence to the issue of determining the employment status of individuals, particularly where developments in technology give rise to new, complex working arrangements.
Whether an individual is an employee, a worker, or a self-employed contractor is important in determining the rights and protection that they receive under UK employment law. An individual who is self-employed will not benefit from employment rights, whereas a worker will enjoy certain rights and protections, including the right to receive the national minimum wage and paid holiday, the right to mandatory rest breaks and whistleblowing protection. An employee will have the same rights as workers, as well as additional rights, such as the right not to be unfairly dismissed and the right to receive statutory redundancy pay.
Businesses who favour engaging self-employed contractors, rather than workers or employees, do so because it can be a more cost-efficient and flexible arrangement. The advantages to the company of this business model are priced into the business plan, which becomes dependent on the validity of the arrangement to deliver anticipated returns. Therefore some “employers” may treat an individual as a self-employed contractor, without giving consideration to their proper employment status.
But determining employment status can be complex. Whether an individual is self-employed, a worker or an employee will depend on a number of factors, including the level of control that the “employer” has over the individual. In this specific case, Uber claims that their drivers use the Uber app on their own terms and control their own use of it, whereas the GMB maintains that Uber controls passenger charges and the routes that the drivers must follow. The court, in considering employment status, will not only need to have regard to the relevant law and cases in this area, but it will also need to consider how old employment law principles apply to these new types of working arrangement.
A decision in favour of the GMB could, therefore, prove very costly for Uber. The company may be required to pay compensation for past failures to make appropriate payments, such as sick pay and holiday pay. Uber will also be obliged to bear a greater degree of responsibility for their drivers in the future, including ensuring that their drivers receive adequate rest breaks and taking reasonable steps to ensure that they do not work longer than 48 hours per week on average (unless the drivers choose to opt-out of this limit), as required under the Working Time Regulations 1998.
The California ruling held that a driver for Uber is an employee rather than a contractor and the Canada claim runs into many millions — these and the GMB case are doubtless being watched by Uber’s many competitors and detractors around the world.
Hannah Farley is a solicitor in the employment department at Stewarts Law LLP