Over the years, Uber has been competing fiercely and expensively with global regulators for the protection it provides drivers. Geek economy giants argued that drivers are freelancers and can work at any time and place they want, so they are not hired directly by Uber or are entitled to benefits such as sick leave and overtime.
In California, Uber Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi advocated the “third way” of classifying workers who are not contractors or full-time employees. And he suggested that the company’s approach in the state could be a blueprint to tackle similar labor fights occurring worldwide.
But last week, Uber said it would adopt a different model for drivers in the UK. After losing the watershed ruling in the British Supreme Court, the company agreed to reclassify all 70,000 drivers in the UK as “workers.” Benefits under British law. The result is essentially a “fourth way” for Uber, another example of the increasing pressure from global governments to make companies treat their employees better and follow local rules.
“Some countries have strong labor laws and some don’t apply at all,” said Vanessa Bain, co-founder of the workers advocacy group Gig Workers Collective. We’re all starting at a different point. “The complexity of the various legal systems continues to be a challenge for both organizing workers and companies.”
In the UK, drivers can now receive minimum wages, vacation pay and pensions. Drivers in this country have already been receiving medical benefits since 2018 and will continue to receive sickness, injuries and parental leave as workers.
Maria Figueroa, head of labor and policy research at Cornell University’s Worker Institute, said that while the new benefits are a step in the right direction, many will argue that they don’t go far enough because Uber will still function as an employer. responsibility. Regardless of the restrictions, Figueroa said, “the advocates of some countries will go for this.” Because they see it as the first in a series of steps needed to gain more protection for the world’s fast-growing gig worker population.
“It is a long and winding road to participate in the struggle for full benefit,” Figueroa knows. “Many advocates are reassessing whether they will do so.”
In California, Uber and other gig economy companies effectively overturned laws that require workers to be classified as employees last year. The company drafted and financed a voting proposal that violated the law in the November elections, but gave workers a few perks, including lower wages, health insurance benefits, and mileage reimbursement. Sponsored by America’s largest gig company, the offer was the most expensive measure in the history of the state.
“Uber’s decision to classify drivers as employees in the UK after their defeat in the Supreme Court appeal suggests they have no plans to cease operations there,” says Mandeep Singh, Bloomberg Intelligence’s technical analyst. “While the competition is likely to put pressure on the delivery sector, which was so far unprofitable, we believe it can increase Uber’s share of rideshare and get smaller colleagues like Ola, Didi and Bolt to retreat from the UK.”
Under new rules in California and the UK, drivers are paid only for the time they participate in driving, and wages do not include the time waiting for the passenger (the time that accounts for about a third of the driver). This is the average number of working days, according to a study by the University of California, Berkeley.
Figueroa said the benefits provided to workers in the UK are similar to those required by Canada’s “subordinate worker” category. She said advocates in many countries would not be happy with the company’s UK policy, but some of them may even lobby for similar protections in their own markets. “The unions and the workers who won the ruling will also say that this alone is not enough, but now that’s what we’ve got,” she said.
Drivers who first filed a UK lawsuit against Uber say the company hasn’t developed enough. Uber said the driver deserves the minimum wage after accepting the customer’s travel, but the Supreme Court said the driver is working every time he logs in to the app.
Drivers James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam said in a statement: “Uber has undoubtedly made progress here, but nothing is acceptable other than fully complying with legal minimum standards.” Farrar said on Twitter that he expects to return to court against Uber.
The rights of performing workers and their classification of employment will remain a major flash point for months and years to come. This is especially true as drivers return to work after an epidemic and businesses increasingly face different pressures from region to region.
For example, a proposal could be introduced this spring in New York allowing performing workers to form unions and bargain collectively. In Seattle, the focus is on extending the pandemic risk salary increase for grocery store employees to people in other professions. And last year, the cities of San Francisco and Oakland, California, passed laws giving performance workers up to 80 hours of paid sick leave during the epidemic.
“There is no one way to go where we have to go,” Bain said. “There are also differences between cities. It’s a complex system.”
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