Uber recognising its drivers as employees with rights is a result of union organising - which will be central to ending the gig economy altogether, reports Chris Neville
Uber drivers are celebrating an important legal victory after the company accepted it needed to change the way it treats its employees following a Supreme Court ruling last month.
The changes to terms and conditions - now at least partially accepted by Uber, effectively means that drivers will be treated as employees, rather than self-employed. This will see them gain entitlement to holiday pay, pension contributions and the minimum wage. Uber will also be awarding back-pay to make up for lost earnings of its drivers.
The App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU) have played a key part in this battle, alongside the GMB. ADCU General Secretary, James Farrar reflected on the situation on Tuesday night's South London People's Assembly meeting.
Farrar urged caution for the future, insisting that there were further battles ahead and that workers shouldn't rely solely on legal rulings to protect their rights.
"On the limitation of expecting miracles in the courtroom. Yes it's the strategic litigation, we've had some brilliant lawyers. But the other two things that are critical components. First is relentless shoe-leather organising.
"Don't let anybody tell you that it's a different way of organising in the gig-economy, it isn't. It is getting out there and physically talking to people in car-parks, on the streets, three o'clock on a Saturday morning when most drivers are out.
"And the second bit of this is campaigning. You have to keep campaigning and communicating and bringing your case in front of the public. When we started this in 2015 with the GMB, you couldn't open a Harvard business review where there wasn't the Uber of this, the Uber of that. It was the darling of the business world and Wall Street and we've managed to change that perception by telling the truth."
The ADCU also expects further battles with Uber over hours worked, with Uber looking to pay drivers from trip acceptance to drop-off which the union say short-changes them by 40-50%. They also want to see the rate at which drivers are paid to be agreed through collective bargaining and trade union recognition.
This is an important victory that has the potential for improvements in pay and conditions throughout the gig economy, where workers are routinely exploited, often by multi-billion dollar tech companies. Unions should now build on this victory with a mass recruitment campaign of precarious workers and getting gig economy workers organised in all sectors.
The Uber drivers of the ADCU are leading the way, showing that the collective strength of workers, brought together with effective organising can take on corporate behemoths like Uber.
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