Labour split on Uber as shadow business secretary says it is "not morally acceptable" - but her colleague says it is a safe transport choice

Catherine Neilan
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John McDonnell Holds A Campaign Press Conference In Central London
“I don’t like the way that they are exploiting their workers," she said (Source: Getty)

It seems Labour cannot decide on whether Uber is a force for good or not, after the shadow business secretary said the ride sharing app is not "morally acceptable" because of the way it pays its drivers - while one of her colleagues said it was.

Speaking ahead of the publication of the Taylor Review, which recommends that gig economy firms be allowed to pay less than the minimum wage in some circumstances, Rebecca Long-Bailey said Uber was "exploiting their workers".

Referring to a landmark ruling in October which determined that Uber drivers are entitled to basic workers' rights, Long-Bailey said: “I don’t personally use Uber because I don’t feel that it’s morally acceptable, but that’s not to say that they can’t reform their practices.

“I don’t like the way that they are exploiting their workers, and I think the recent case proved that in the courts; that suggested that the workers that were there were in fact workers, and they weren’t flexible workers, and they needed to be given the adequate amount of protection and rights that workers enjoy,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

However Chi Onwurah, Labour's MP for Newcastle Central and a shadow minister in Long-Bailey's team, said the app helps women travel safely at night.

"These services bring real benefits to people. As a single woman leaving a meeting at 11 o'clock at night, being able to see that your Uber is arriving is a real benefit. I've used it myself," Onwurah told Sky News.

Sam Bowman, executive director of the Adam Smith Institute, told City A.M. Long-Bailey's comments were "very silly".

"She's out of touch - it's hard not to be if you're an MP - but her comments suggest she doesn't understand why someone would use Uber. If she thinks it's morally wrong to use a service that makes the driver better off, the passenger better off and the passenger potentially safer, then I would suggest that's a moral failing on her part."

An Uber spokesperson said: “Millions of people rely on Uber to get around and tens of thousands of drivers use our app to make money on their own terms.

“Almost all taxi and private hire drivers have been self-employed for decades before our app existed and with Uber they have more control. Drivers are totally free to choose if, when and where they drive with no shifts or minimum hours. In fact the main reason people say they sign up to drive with Uber is so they can be their own boss.

“Drivers using Uber made average fares of £15 per hour last year after our service fee and, even after costs, the average driver took home well over the National Living Wage. We’re also proud to have moved things on from this industry’s cash-in-hand past since every fare is electronically recorded, traceable and transparent.”

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