Uber Recognises GMB Trade Union In Historic Move

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Another noteworthy gig economy change. Months after Uber granted British drivers workers rights, the firm recognises GMB trade union

Uber drivers can join the GMB trade union in the UK in a historic move, after the ride-hailing firm confirmed it would recognise the trade union.

It is a significant development for gig economy workers, and marks the first deal between a trade union and a gig economy ride-hailing service.

It comes just after Uber in March confirmed it would reclassify all 70,000 of its British drivers (previously classified as self-employed freelancers or partners), as Uber workers, entitling them to the UK minimum wage, holiday pay and a pension.

The UK supreme court had in February dismissed Uber’s appeal against a 2016 landmark employment tribunal ruling that its drivers should be classed as workers.

Uber, GMB agreement

The GMB trade union confirmed that it and Uber have “announced a groundbreaking trade union recognition deal. Under the collective bargaining agreement, the trade union will represent drivers across the UK.”

It said that drivers will be free to to choose if, when and where they drive whilst also having the choice to be represented by GMB.

The GMB said that Uber is the only major private hire operator to offer these protections, and no other operator has followed this move.

Uber will also support drivers if they choose to sign up as a member of GMB, and union representatives will have a presence in Uber’s driver support hubs to help drive up membership.

Uber and GMB have agreed to work together on a number of key topics including national living wage guarantee and holiday pay, pension, discretionary benefits, and health, safety and wellbeing, among other things.

“This groundbreaking deal between GMB and Uber could be the first step to a fairer working life for millions of people,” noted Mick Rix, National Officer, GMB. “This agreement shows gig economy companies don’t have to be a wild west on the untamed frontier of employment rights.”

“When tech private hire companies and unions work together like this, everyone benefits – bringing dignified, secure employment back to the world of work. We now call on all other operators to follow suit,” Rix concluded.

“Whilst Uber and GMB may not seem like obvious allies, we’ve always agreed that drivers must come first, and today we have struck this important deal to improve workers’ protections,” agreed Jamie Heywood, regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe.

“Uber is the only major player in the industry to provide drivers with a National Living Wage guarantee, holiday pay and a pension, and this historic agreement means that Uber will be the first in the industry to ensure that its drivers also have full union representation,” said Heywood.

It should be noted that while Uber has recognised the GMB trade union, drivers won’t automatically become members, and drivers will be required to sign up through the usual channels to join the GMB.

ADCU objection

Not everyone is happy though.

The App Drivers & Couriers Union headed by James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam, who were the lead claimants in the successful Uber tribunal case, said back in March that Uber drivers were still being short-changed.

That was because Uber in March had said minimum wage and holiday pay would activate from when a trip was accepted to when a passenger was dropped off, not the whole time drivers were logged on to its app – the working time laid out by the supreme court.

They said this meant that Uber drivers could miss out on up to 50 percent of potential earnings.

And now the App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU), made clear that while it welcomed Uber’s recognition of the GMC trade union, it still had significant issues with the ride hailing firm.

“..we believe closer trade union engagement with Uber management is always a welcome development but there is good reason for workers and their unions to be cautious,” it stated.

“At this time ADCU is not prepared to enter into a recognition agreement with Uber,” it stated. “This is because Uber continues to violate basic employment law such as the right to minimum wage for all working time and holiday pay despite the recent UK Supreme Court ruling in our favour.”

It noted that the UK is the only country in which Uber has recognised a union, and its is still being challenged by its drivers in many other markets over whether they should be classed as workers or self-employed.

“Overall, this is a step in the right direction, but there are significant obstacles in the way of ADCU reaching a similar agreement,” it said. “For us, compliance with legal minimums should be the point of departure for any union agreement with Uber.”

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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