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Uber drivers are workers and not self-employed, UK Supreme Court rules

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“The employment tribunal was right to find that Uber drivers are workers who therefore qualify for the rights conferred on workers by employment legislation,” said judge George Leggatt, as he read out a summary of the ruling on a court livestream.

Among their reasons, the judges cited Uber’s driver rating and its practice of keeping communications between drivers and passengers to a minimum, which results in the service being “very tightly defined and controlled by Uber”.

“Drivers are in a position of subordination and dependency to Uber,” with little ability to improve their economic position. The only way to increase their earnings is by “working longer hours while constantly meeting Uber’s measures of performance,” the court said.

Michael Kaine, National Secretary of the Transport Workers Union, told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that he would be raising the UK ruling with MPs during meetings with drivers and riders in Canberra next week.

“This ruling from the UK is unequivocal and has huge implications for Australian law: gig economy workers have rights.” he said.

“We call upon the Federal Government to urgently act upon this ruling and legislate now to recognise the rights of ride-share drivers and food delivery riders.

“The rest of the world is leaving Australia behind while our laws remain out of date, resulting in riders dying on the roads and ride-share drivers being ripped off.

“Our aim is for regulation to put in place an independent tribunal to give workers the rights and protections they need.“

GMB, the British union which brought the case, hailed the end of the lengthy legal battle as a “historic” win and said it could seek compensation for drivers.

Uber drivers and their union celebrate after hearing the verdict outside the Supreme Court.

Uber drivers and their union celebrate after hearing the verdict outside the Supreme Court.Credit:AP

“This has been a gruelling four-year legal battle for our members – but it’s ended in a historic win,” Mick Rix from GMB said.

“The Supreme Court has upheld the decision of three previous courts, backing up what GMB has said all along; Uber drivers are workers and entitled to breaks, holiday pay and minimum wage.

“Uber must now stop wasting time and money pursuing lost legal causes and do what’s right by the drivers who prop up its empire.

“GMB will now consult with our Uber driver members over their forthcoming compensation claim,” Rix said.

Uber has around 60,000 drivers in Britain. The ruling does not affect UberEats. The company will argue that the ruling only affects a limited number of drivers pertaining to when the case was brought in 2016.

“We respect the Court’s decision which focused on a small number of drivers who used the Uber app in 2016,” Jamie Heywood from Uber said in a statement.

“Since then we have made some significant changes to our business, guided by drivers every step of the way.

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“These include giving even more control over how they earn and providing new protections like free insurance in case of sickness or injury.

“We are committed to doing more and will now consult with every active driver across the UK to understand the changes they want to see.”

But Nigel McKay from law firm Leigh Day said this would also be fought in court.

“Uber has consistently suggested that the rulings only affect two drivers, but Leigh Day will be claiming compensation on behalf of the thousands of drivers who have joined its claim.

“For many of the drivers that it represents, the claims could be worth thousands of pounds in compensation,” he said.

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