01 Nov Uber owes struggling drivers £720 million as it drags out tribunal appeal
Tech giant Uber owes a staggering £720 million to its workforce after a court ruling entitled them to holiday pay, a minimum wage and rest breaks.
But it could be years before the company that lost a tribunal two years ago could be forced to pay up – if at all.
The San Francisco headquartered company which has 40,000 drivers registered in the UK and uses EU loopholes to avoid paying tax is refusing to honour the ruling made at the central London employment tribunal in 2016.
Lawyers from Leigh Day, acting for the GMB union, say each of the 40,000 drivers is owed almost £11,000 in wages and more than £8,000 in holiday pay.
But Uber is refusing to pay up as it racks up tens of thousands of pounds in an appeals process which is unlikely to be settled any time soon.
It comes as a survey from Ridester showed drivers in the US are not satisfied with their Uber earnings.
“These figures lay bare the human cost of Uber continuing to refuse to accept the ruling,” said GMB legal director Sue Harris.
“While the company is wasting money losing appeal after appeal, drivers are up to £18,000 out of pocket.
“That’s thousands of drivers struggling to pay their rent, to feed their families. “It’s time Uber admits defeat and pays up.
“The company needs to stop wasting money dragging its lost cause through the courts.
“Instead, Uber should do the decent thing and give drivers the rights to which those courts have said they are legally entitled.”
Fareed Baloch of zoom.taxi said the numbers “highlighted that drivers are not better off working for Uber despite the claims made by the company.”
“Uber has used some unsavoury working practises to try to dominate the market and now instead of looking after its drivers – after that big campaign in Westminster Magistrates Court about how they were a ‘different’ kind of company – they are avoiding paying them basic rights by using their financial clout in a long drawn out legal process.
But consumers have a really important role to play if they want to put an end to the dubious ethics of the gig economy: they have to use local companies who provide rights to their workers.”
Last year politicians slammed Uber which they accused of ‘free riding’ on the welfare state after more and more evidence was uncovered of drivers requiring benefits to top up their incomes.
Frank Field MP, Work and Pensions Committee chairman, accused the gig economy of “free-riding” on the welfare state and “avoiding all their responsibilities to profit from this bogus ‘self-employed’ designation while ordinary taxpayers pick up the tab.”
He added: “This inquiry has convinced me of the need to offer ‘worker’ status to the drivers who work with those companies as the default option.
“This status would be a much fairer reflection of the work they undertake, which seems to fall between what most of us would think of as ‘self-employed’ or ’employed’.
“It would also protect them from some of the appalling practices that have been reported to the committee in this inquiry.”
Uber has also been avoiding VAT by exploiting a loophole in how the tax is collected for business-to-business sales across EU borders.
It treats its 40,000 UK drivers as separate businesses, each too small to register for VAT.
The global company, which claimed to make revenues of £1.9 billion in the first three months of 2018, paid just £411,000 in tax in the UK in 2016.