A gig economy inquiry by MPs hears a tale of two Uber drivers

Lynsey Barber
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Experiences of being a Uber "partner" have differed, MPs heard (Source: Getty)

Uber drivers have given evidence to MPs scrutinising the rise of the gig economy and its implications for workers, painting two very different pictures of their experience with the company.

"There is no flexibility," said Uber driver David Dunn, giving evidence to the work and pensions committee chaired by Frank Field, who last year accused Uber of treating its drivers like Victorian "sweated labour"

"I don't consider myself self-employed in any way shape or form," said the Glaswegian, who chose to become an executive driver with Uber around a year ago rather than a black cab driver.

"I joined Uber to be self-employed and that's what was promised. The control that Uber has makes that almost impossible now," said Dunn.

He told the cross-party committee that having invested in an e-class vehicle to get executive bookings, less than five per cent of them were at this level, while noting that the increasing number of private hire cars on the roads is restricting earnings and forcing drivers to work more hours.

Read more: The government wants "flexibility but fairness" for Uber workers

"Uber say you can earn this money, but it doesn't transpire. And now we have to do 60 to 70 hours a week and the exec jobs are not there," he said, adding that he had spoken to Uber about setting his own fees and fares, but had not been successful.

"How can you be self-employed if you cant negotiate?" he asked MPs. "Uber don't allow me to be self employed by setting fairs and fees... It's their way or the highway."

However, Steven Rowe, an Uber driver for more than four years said he valued the flexibility and had not heard any issue from any other drivers he had met.

"I always do above minimum wage," he said when questioned by MPs about earnings, adding that he usually works from 7am until 10am in the morning and then 4pm until 7pm in the evening and sometimes at weekends, but on average doing a 40 hour week.

Read more: We've hit peak gig economy, according to JP Morgan

"I'm extremely worried about the future for people like me who rely upon the self-employment and flexibility of the Uber app and from everything I've read, that a small number of people are complaining when the majority of us are happy. So I'm here trying to protect my future," he told the committee.

As part of a separate review into the gig economy, Field last week told Downing Street that a new "national standard of fair work in the gig economy" should be created, including a guaranteed minimum wage.

The ongoing review into employment law by Matthew Taylor follows a landmark tribunal ruling which ruled against Uber in its assertion that drivers are self-employed, saying they are in fact workers. An appeal by Uber is waiting to be heard.

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