The GMB union has launched legal action against London private car hire company Addison Lee over the dismissal of three drivers.
The challenge – which relates to contracts that were terminated earlier this year – is understood to be a test case for the union which could lead to action against hundreds of former drivers.
The drivers were dismissed following protests held in May over new contracts and changes to working hours.
Lawyers working on behalf of GMB claim the three drivers were treated unlawfully and are pursuing claims over failure to pay the national minimum wage, failure to pay holiday wages, and wrongful dismissal.
The new contract – which is meant to incentivise drivers to work at peak times – has resulted in a seven per cent boost to driver earnings, according to Addison Lee.
The union claimed at the time that Addison Lee, the UK’s largest minicab operator, cut drivers’ pay to compete with ride hailing app Uber in the capital.
A statement from the company read:
Addison Lee drivers are engaged as independent contractors which means they are all self-employed. This gives them the freedom to offer their services as they wish. This flexibility means they can undertake other pursuits as well as drive for Addison Lee.
Addison Lee prides itself on delivering the highest quality service in the industry. It maintains this by setting high standards for its drivers, particularly in relation to how they conduct themselves in public. In the interests of both customers and drivers, any drivers that fall below these standards can expect to have their contract terminated.
In May, Addison Lee introduced a new and improved driver deal. The new deal has been welcomed with all of the company's 5,000 drivers signing up.
Addison Lee – bought by private equity giant Carlyle in 2013 for £300m – last month reported post-tax earnings for the year to August dipped to £11.6m, down almost two-thirds from £32.9m in the previous year.
Last month ride hailing app Uber and its drivers clashed with GMB in court over workers' rights.
The legal battle over the status of some Uber drivers was the first of its kind in the UK.
Uber considers drivers self-employed "partners". However, GMB claims they should be considered employees and have rights as workers, such as minimum wage, mandatory breaks and paid leave.
Other protests over workers pay and conditions have flared up in recent weeks.
Read more: Deliveroo just raised $275m to fend off Uber
Deliveroo was forced to defended its new pay conditions, describing them as "flexible", amid protests at its London headquarters earlier this month.
Instead of being paid an hourly rate of £7, plus £1 per delivery, Deliveroo workers will get, under a trial system, £3.75 plus tips.