British drivers to defend employment rights at Uber tribunal

Company says drivers are self-employed but union argues it provides a uniform service and controls their work
By Costas Pitas
|employmentlawtoday.com|Last Updated: 09/28/2017

LONDON (Reuters) - Two drivers were set to defend a British tribunal decision giving them workers' rights at Uber on Thursday, the latest threat to the taxi app's business model which is battling to keep its licence in London.

The pair successfully argued last year that the Silicon Valley firm exerted significant control over them to provide an on-demand taxi service and had responsibilities in terms of the working rights it provides.

"Uber's a transportation services company marketing itself to customers as giving a uniform experience and pricing of what it means 'to take an Uber,'" the General Secretary of the Independent Workers' Union of Great Britain, which is representing the drivers, Jason Moyer-Lee told Reuters.

"In order to deliver their service it has to hire workers. They're workers rather than in business on their own account," he said.

Uber said at the tribunal on Wednesday that its drivers were self-employed, like those at long-standing rivals.

The self-employed in Britain are entitled to only basic protections such as health and safety, but those deemed to be workers receive benefits such as the minimum wage, paid holidays and rest breaks.

The tribunal is due to end on Thursday with the judge unlikely to deliver a decision for several weeks.

Last week London stripped the San Francisco-based business of its licence to operate, citing the firm's approach to reporting serious criminal offences, although its 40,000 drivers will still provide rides until an appeals process ends, which could take several months.

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