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Uber Challenges Ruling on Drivers’ Rights

Uber is back in court to appeal against a landmark ruling that said their drivers were not self-employed – a decision which had a dramatic impact on millions of people working in the UK gig economy.

As the company argued against the decision which awarded workers the company rights including holiday and sick pay, hundreds rallied outside the court in what is being billed as Britain’s biggest-ever march in support of ‘precarious workers.

Uber will argue the taxi-hailing company has a relationship with its drivers which is “typical of the private hire industry”.

Fareed Baloch of zoom.taxi said that the control of drivers was in the hands of Uber “and to claim they were self-employed was pushing the limits of credulity.”

“Uber claimed their drivers were self-employed as a way of lowering their financial liabilities to HMRC, by riding themselves off an employment burden and in turn by claiming they were self-employed their drivers could charge 20% less so undercut other drivers and potentially put them out of business.

“We believe all those in work should have decent rights, not just those who qualify for ‘employee’ status. This includes family-friendly rights, protection from unfair dismissal and the right to redundancy pay and sick pay.

“We signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Now is the time to sign a Universal Declaration of Workers’ Rights in the wake of the gig economy.”

“The term ‘predatory pricing’ is regularly used when describing Uber’s business model for a very good reason. The industry, customers and drivers would benefit greatly if the court ruled in favour of competition rather than dominance by a company exploiting its financial position.”

Acting on behalf of the company Dinah Rose QC told the court of appeal in central London that “the agency model” – with Uber acting as an agent between drivers and passengers – had been used in the private hire industry “for many years”.

She said it was not “unusual” but “because the Uber app enables it to operate on a much larger scale than traditional minicab companies”

It was not an “unusual” relationship between Uber and its drivers, she said, “but because the Uber app enables it to operate on a much larger scale than traditional minicab companies”.

The company has previously launched an appearance at the tribunal level, warning that the decision could deprive riders of the “personal flexibility they value” but they failed to overturn the decision that its drivers should be classed as workers with the right to earn a minimum wage.

The court was told by counsel that the internet had revolutionised how many businesses now operate, including allowing businesses to operate with “a vastly expanded scope”.

Rose said that Uber had produced the software that allowed the tracking of the location of a passenger with the driver who used its app, saying it was a “critical innovation”.

“Uber’s app is its asset and it is an enormously valuable piece of software,” she told the three judges in a submission and argued that the nature of Uber’s business was no different to that conducted by other private hire companies.

Uber had a “powerful commercial interest” when it granted licences to people to use its app and in the setting of conditions on its use, adding there was “nothing strange or unusual or morally unconscionable” in a company that owned very valuable assets seeking to use it in that way.

Those in the courtroom included drivers James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam, who won an employment tribunal in 2016, citing Uber’s control over their working conditions.

Jason Galbraith-Marten QC, for Aslam and Farrar, said there was “no express agreement” by which the claimants appointed Uber “to act as their agent and setting out the nature and extent of that agency”.

The tribunals’ task was therefore to “determine the true nature of the (implied) agreement” between drivers and Uber, he added.

Galbraith-Marten said the tribunals were “entitled to ask whether the claimants are genuinely in business on their own account” or whether they were “providing their services” to Uber.

If Uber was not acting as the drivers’ agent, “the purported driver-passenger contract is indeed a fiction”.

Earlier, a demonstration organised in support of Aslam and Farrar was told by Frank Field, the chair of the House of Commons Work and pensions committee, that Uber was “rich enough to put themselves above the law”.

Field said the Uber drivers “began this three years ago and the boss class are stretching it out with appeals”. He added: “They can afford to. Uber are rich enough to put themselves above the law.”

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