Friday, 15 December 2017

Uber defends business model at UK tribunal on worker rights

LONDON: Uber went to a British employment appeal tribunal on Wednesday to argue its drivers are self-employed, not workers entitled to a range of extra benefits, less than a week after the firm was told it would lose its London license.

The U.S. ride-hailing service has faced regulatory and legal setbacks around the world amid opposition from traditional taxi services and concern among some regulators. It has been forced to quit several countries, such as Denmark and Hungary.

Losing its license in London, one of the world’s wealthiest cities, is one of the U.S. technology firm’s biggest setbacks so far. The London regulator cited the firm’s approach to reporting serious criminal offences and background checks on drivers.

It can operate during its appeal, which could last months.

Last year, two drivers successfully argued at a tribunal that Uber exerted significant control over them to provide an on-demand taxi service and had responsibilities in terms of workers’ rights.

At the two-day appeal hearing starting on Wednesday Uber will argue its drivers are self-employed and work the same way as those at long-established local taxi firms, according to a court document seen by Reuters.

The self-employed are entitled to only basic protections such as health and safety, but workers receive benefits such as the minimum wage, paid holidays and rest breaks. This would add to Uber’s costs and bureaucracy across Britain.

“Almost all taxi and private-hire drivers have been self-employed for decades before our app existed,” an Uber spokesman said before Wednesday’s hearing.

“Uber drivers have more control and are totally free to choose if, when and where they drive with no shifts or minimum hours,” he said.

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