Uber drivers have won an employment tribunal case in the UK, making them entitled to holiday pay, paid rest breaks and the National Minimum Wage. The ride-hailing company has long argued that its chauffeurs are self-employed contractors, not employees; the tribunal disagreed, however, setting a major precedent for the company and its relationship with workers. GMB, the union for professional drivers in the UK, initiated the two "test cases" in July. It's described the decision as a "monumental victory" that will impact "over 30,000 drivers" in England and Wales.
"Uber drivers and thousands of others caught in the bogus self-employment trap will now enjoy the same rights as employees," Maria Ludkin, GMB's legal director said. "This outcome will be good for passengers too. Properly rewarded drivers are the same side of the coin as drivers who are properly licensed and driving well maintained and insured vehicles."
This misses a couple of things
- This might well kill Uber, such that the only "victory" here is that drivers have one less employment option and choice of work style. The latter is perhaps the most important -- why does every single job have to be punch-in-punch-out with standard benefits and holidays and work hours and work rules? Why is there no room for a diversity of work experiences from which to choose?
- One of the things that many Uber drivers like about Uber is that there are no set work hours or productivity expectations. Well, that goes out the window with these rules. Today, if Uber pays drivers only based on what they work, they don't really care how hard they work or how many jobs they take or where they choose to cruise or even if they choose to cruise at unproductive hours, like 5AM. Currently, if you want to drive back and forth on a country lane at 4:30AM waiting for a fare, you can go for it -- you are taking the risk. But if the company is paying minimum wage per hour, everything changes. Suddenly they must now demand minimum productivity expectations, which will include limits on working in unproductive locations or at unproductive hours. The company will start to rank drivers and cut the lowest productivity / lowest activity ones.
I went into these issues in more depth here.