British Ruling Could Affect Gig Workers Worldwide

Country's top court says Uber drivers are workers
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 19, 2021 10:03 AM CST
Britain's Top Court Rules Uber Drivers Are Workers
Uber driver and president of the (ADCU), App Drivers & Couriers Union, Yaseen Islam, poses with a poster outside the Supreme Court in London, Friday, Feb. 19, 2021.   (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

A landmark ruling against Uber from Britain's top court could provide the framework for better protection for gig workers around the world, lawyers say. The country's Supreme Court ruled Friday that Uber drivers are workers, not independent contractors, and are entitled to minimum wage and vacation time, the BBC reports. Uber—which appealed to the court after losing two appeals in lower courts—argues that the ruling only applies to a few dozen drivers who used the app in 2016, but lawyers say there will be a flood of similar lawsuits unless the ruling is applied to all the company's drivers. "People around the world will be following this decision," attorney Nigel Mackay tells the New York Times. Lawyers estimate drivers could be owed an average of more than $16,000 each for lost pay.

The court, noting that fares and conditions are "very tightly defined and controlled" by Uber, ruled that drivers should be considered workers from the time they turn on the app until they turn it off. "Drivers are in a position of subordination and dependency in relation to Uber such that they have little or no ability to improve their economic position through professional or entrepreneurial skill,” said the court's president, Lord Robert John Reed. "In practice the only way in which they can increase their earnings is by working longer hours." The court's seven judges ruled unanimously against Uber. "This ruling will fundamentally re-order the gig economy and bring an end to rife exploitation of workers by means of algorithmic and contract trickery," James Farrar, one of two drivers who first brought the case to an employment tribunal in 2016, tells the AP. (More Uber stories.)

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