What a landmark for the gig economy! For years Uber resisted calls to recognize
unions. However, for the first time last month, Uber has agreed to recognize a trade
union in a landmark deal that should benefit gig economy workers. By recognizing
GMB, the ride-hailing giant has gone a step further, giving a union the right to
negotiate on behalf of drivers for the first time.
The GMB union will have the power to represent UK drivers in discussions over
earnings, pensions, benefits and their health and wellbeing. Mick Rix, national
officer at GMB, said it could be “the first step to a fairer working life for millions of
Uber had previously argued that its drivers were freelancers and not entitled to sick
pay or a minimum wage. But in March, it changed its stance after the Supreme Court
ruled that its drivers should be classified as workers – a category entitling them to
better pay and conditions. This now provides Uber drivers with a National Living
Wage guarantee, holiday pay and a pension.
GMB called on other operators to follow suit, saying the deal offered a golden
opportunity to improve workers’ rights. “This agreement shows gig economy
companies don’t have to be a Wild West on the untamed frontier of employment
rights,” said Mr. Rix. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said the agreement
would give Uber drivers “a real voice at work”.
The UK is the only country in which Uber has recognized 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.