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THE so-called “gig economy” suffered a huge blow today when the Court of Appeal ruled that tens of thousands of drivers working for cab firm Uber are employees entitled to the minimum wage, holiday pay, sick pay and other rights.
The decision could cost Uber up to £1 billion in back pay, though the firm vowed to fight on by taking the case to the Supreme Court.
It was Uber’s third court defeat in the case, which was launched by general union GMB more than two years ago.
GMB general secretary Tim Roache said: “This is the perfect early Christmas present for GMB Uber members, but this case is about the wider ‘gig economy’ too.
“Employers are on notice that they can’t just run roughshod over working people to put more on the bottom line for shareholders.”
Solicitor Nigel Mackay of law firm Leigh Day, which fought the case for the GMB, said: “We are very pleased that the Court of Appeal has again upheld the employment tribunal’s findings that Uber drivers are workers of Uber.
“This is the third time that the drivers have been victorious in their fight for workers’ rights, but Uber has yet to give their drivers what three legal decisions have ruled they are entitled to — holiday pay and to be paid at least the national minimum wage.
“We hope that Uber now faces up to its responsibilities instead of spending time and money in the courts attempting to deny its drivers these rights.”
The fight for Uber workers’ rights began at the Central London Employment Tribunal in July 2016. The California-based company argued that its drivers were self-employed, but the tribunal ruled against it in October of that year.
Uber refused to accept the decision and took the case to the appeal tribunal, which also ruled against the company.
Refusing to accept that ruling as well, Uber then took the case to the Court of Appeal, where it was heard over two days before the third ruling against Uber was delivered today.
Mr Roache said: “We’re now at a hat trick of judgements against Uber — they keep appealing and keep losing. Uber should just accept the verdict and stop trying to find loopholes that deprive people of their hard-won rights and hard-earned pay.”
After the original tribunal decision in 2016, Uber refused to implement the minimum wages and other employment conditions which the tribunal had said should apply.
Leigh Day said the accumulated holiday pay for each driver amounts to £8,150 and non-payment of the minimum wage comes to £10,750, totalling £18,900.
After the original hearing, the case was also taken up by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), whose general secretary Jason Moyer-Lee said today: “It is becoming increasingly ridiculous for so-called ‘gig economy’ companies to argue that the law is unclear when they lose virtually every tribunal and court case.”
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said the ruling should serve as a warning to other gig economy employers.
“If you play fast and loose with workers’ rights, unions will expose you and hold you to account,” she added.
“This is a fantastic result for GMB.”
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