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Uber and GMB join forces to end exploitation in ride hailing sector

But is this just a publicity stunt?

Allie Nawrat

uber GMB ride hailing
Credit: Ivan S via Twenty20.

Unleash Your PeopleCompetitors criticized the move and former Uber drivers who led the Supreme Court case condemn the campaign as “dishonest”.

Ride hailing giant Uber and UK union GMB have met for the first time since they signed a landmark unionization deal in the UK in May.

In a joint statement shared after the meeting, GMB and Uber “committed to end the exploitation of more than 200,000 drivers who use ride hailing apps”.

They noted that while Uber’s formal recognition of GMB meant the union could represent 70,000 Uber’s taxi drivers in areas like wages, pensions, and benefits, “an estimated 230,000 [drivers] are still not receiving their legal rights from companies like Bolt and Addison Lee” in the UK.

Talking about this commitment, Uber regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe Jamie Heywood said: “The historic agreement with GMB ensured that Uber was the first in the industry to ensure all of its drivers have full union representation, as well as a pension and holiday pay.

“We may not seem like obvious allies, but together we made history by striking a recognition agreement to improve workers’ protections and, crucially, give drivers a stronger say in how Uber operates.

“We hope that working constructively with GMB will show the rest of the industry what can be achieved, ensuring that all drivers, no matter who they work with, receive the rights and protections they are entitled to.”

Heywood also stated that Uber would be providing “good flexible work” to its Uber Eats couriers who were exempted from its decision in March to transform its taxi drivers into workers.

He stated that this move goes beyond the requirements of the law given that its competitor Deliveroo won a UK Court of Appeal case in June to designate its couriers as self-employed without the right to form a union. However, this commitment brings Uber in line with another food delivery competitor: Just Eat.

Addison Lee and Bolt reacted strongly against Uber and GMB’s statement.

In a statement shared with UNLEASH, Addison Lee’s CEO Liam Griffin said: “Drivers are at the heart of Addison Lee’s business and we absolutely refute that they are being exploited.

“We have always acknowledged their contribution by paying the best rates and providing the best working practices in the industry. 

“We guarantee the drivers that work with us get the London Living Wage level of earnings, as opposed to only the National Minimum Wage paid by Uber. Drivers working with Addison Lee also get access to a pension and holiday pay.”

Griffin added: “The decline in driver earnings and overall wellbeing across the industry is a product of Uber’s operating practices and predatory pricing model, which has led to a race to the bottom and threatened driver livelihoods.”

While Bolt’s regional manager Sam Raciti told UNLEASH: “Drivers are free to choose which platform they use and record numbers are continuing to earn through Bolt.

“They tell us that’s because they can take home more money. That’s not exploitation, it’s competition.”

“Bolt provides market leading earnings to drivers and value to customers; we don’t take business advice from competitors motivated by their own agenda.”

UNLEASH has reached out to Uber for comment, but is yet to receive a reply.

ADCU brands Uber’s move “dishonest”

Uber’s competitors were not the only people to criticize its move.

The App Drivers and Couriers Union (ADCU) which was set up by two former Uber drivers – Yaseen Aslam and James Farrar – who led the Supreme Court case against Uber that eventually forced its hand to turn its drivers into workers, have condemned Uber’s campaign as “dishonest”, “false and disingenuous”.

In a statement, Farrar and Aslam wrote: “We are appalled by Uber’s on-going PR campaign which deliberately misinforms the public and policy makers about its true position on worker rights.

“Uber continues to be in violation of UK employment law, is failing to implement the Supreme Court ruling and is in ongoing litigation with tens of thousands of drivers representing the majority of its workforce.

“It has started new litigation in the High Court against the ADCU and others to undermine the Supreme Court ruling, to avoid £2.5 billion in back VAT payments and to cut the link between worker rights and it’s duty to obey all laws as a publicly licensed transport operator.  

“This corporate media campaign is not only offensive to hardworking Uber drivers, but frankly, it is a propaganda campaign corrosive to the public interest.”

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