UNI GS to Uber boss: 'Don't let workers fall through the trapdoor’
Following an ILO panel on the Sharing Economy a Facebook live interview took place between UNI General Secretary Philip Jennings and Amit Singh, Global Lead for Work Policy and Research at Uber. The debate, moderated by Janine Berg, Senior Economist at the ILO, took in flexible work, the right to join a union in the platform economy and minimum wages.
Uber recently lost a bid to overturn a decision by an industrial tribunal in which Uber lost its appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal that found that Uber drivers were in an employment relationship with the organisation and were entitled to workers’ rights, including the minimum wage. Jennings observed that Uber should get on with implementing the decision. Uber is facing legal claims worldwide. The time has come to change its labour law breaking ways, said the UNI GS.
“We need a balance - it’s crystal clear that we need a people centred approach,” said Jennings. “It’s not incompatible with the gig economy to ensure that basic rights and social protection is in place.”
“The trade union movement has dealt with change constantly. We have dealt with new workingpatterns, new technologies and new types of jobs. We always strive to ensure that this happens within a framework that respects workers and ensures social protections.”
We can have flexibility, but do we really need to change our labour laws just because we have these new technologies? The problem arises from the wilful misclassification of employees - once a worker is deemed self-employed, they fall through a trapdoor, a freefall with no employee rights.”
“The trapdoor leads to state of legal limbo in terms of pay and conditions, sick leave, pensions and other social benefits that have become a fundamental part of our social fabric. Once a worker is self employed, they do not have access to these benefits, and thats what we disagree with.”
Amit Singh, the Head of Research at Uber argued that social protections are not incompatible with platforms and that they were doing what they could to make work at Uber empowering.
“Flexibility is one of the big positives for our workers, but it’s a two way flexibility as it allows the worker and the client to change their trips.”
“We want to make it empowering because we want to attract people to work for us.”
In response, Jennings advised that the best way for Uber to attract people to work for them andto make the work empowering, is to admit that there is an employment relationship.
“Uber is a big operator now in many different countries and the time has come to admit that there is an employment relationship.”