Uber faces UK legal action from GMB union over driver employee rights

Lynsey Barber
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Uber faces a legal spat with unions in the UK (Source: Getty)

The GMB union has launched legal action against Uber over the way it treats drivers.

The union claims drivers should be considered employees and has a legal duty to provide them with working rights on pay, holiday, health and safety, and grievances. Uber considers drivers as self-employed "partners".

Now GMB has instructed law firm Leigh Day to take legal action on behalf of members who drive for Uber, contesting that status and claiming they should receive the minimum wage, mandatory breaks and paid leave.

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“The need for a union to defend working drivers’ rights has become an imperative. Operators like Uber must understand that they have an ethical and social policy that matches societies’ expectations of fair and honest treatment. For far too long the public have considered drivers as almost ghosts. They are not seen as educated or with the same needs, aspirations and desires as the rest of the public,” said GMB's Steve Garelick.

Responding to the action, an Uber spokesperson said: “One of the main reasons drivers use Uber is because they love being their own boss. As employees, drivers would drive set shifts, earn a fixed hourly wage, and lose the ability to drive elsewhere as well as the personal flexibility they most value. The reality is that drivers use Uber on their own terms: they control their use of the app."

A lawyer at the law firm said it believed "from the way Uber operates that it owes the same responsibilities towards its drivers as any other employer does to its workers".

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"A successful legal action against Uber could see substantial payouts for drivers, including compensation for past failures by the company to make appropriate payments to who we argue are their workers,” said Leigh Day's Nigel Mackay.

It's just the latest in a series of legal disputes facing Uber in a number of countries.

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