There are some issues with the way gig economy workers go about their jobs, mainly due to the fact big companies refuse to accept that they're actual employees. Being classified as 'self employed contractors' means they don't get the same rights and benefits as others, including things like minimum wage, sick pay, holiday pay, and so on. There's been a lot of fuss about changing the rules to protect these people, but clearly British Uber drivers have had enough. They're staging a 24-hour strike, starting at 1pm today.
This is the first time Uber drivers have been involved in a coordinated national strike, which itself was organised by the United Private Hire Drivers (UPHD), a branch of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain. The union's demands include ending what it is describing as "unfair deactivation" of drivers, an increase in fares to £2 per mile (up from £1.25 in London), and a 10 per cent reduction in commissions the drivers have to pay.
The strike is also insisting that a 2016 tribunal judgement, which rejected the idea that Uber drivers were contractors, be applied - and quickly. Naturally Uber was never happy with the tribunal ruling, and has spent the last couple of years in the appeals courts trying to have it overturned. So far they've been unsuccessful, and were denied the chance to skip all the steps and take the issue straight to the supreme court.
The strike will also coincide with protests outside Uber's offices in London, Birmingham, and Nottingham, with Uber drivers themselves encouraging users not to "cross the digital picket line". I imagine there will still be plenty of people who will try and order a cab that way, for a variety of reasons. Then again if enough drivers are on strike, then I can only assume you may be hit with surge pricing, which isn't going to be particularly pleasant on your bank account.
James Farrar, the chair of the UPHD, said:
“After years of watching take-home pay plummet and with management bullying of workers on the rise, workers have been left with no choice but to take strike action. We ask the public to please support drivers by not crossing the digital picket line by not using the app during strike time.”
“We are always looking to make improvements to ensure drivers have the best possible experience and can make the most of their time driving on the app.
That’s why over the last few months we’ve introduced dozens of new features, including sickness, injury, maternity and paternity protections. An academic study last month found that drivers in London make an average of £11 an hour, after accounting for all of their costs and Uber’s service fee.
We continue to look at ways to help drivers increase their earnings and our door is always open if anyone wants to speak to us about any issues they’re having.”