POLITICS

GMB Union Leader Who Fought Uber Now Urges Public To Boycott Addison Lee, Ryanair, Amazon, Starbucks

'We have a moral responsiblity. These things are not cheap for nothing'

25/09/2017 17:08 BST | Updated 25/09/2017 17:35 BST

The leader of the trade union which stood up to Uber in London has urged the public to boycott taxi firm Addison Lee, as well as Ryanair, Amazon and Starbucks.

GMB general secretary Tim Roache stepped up his attack on “unscrupulous” bosses after Addison Lee lost a court ruling that could force it to recognise its drivers as employees and pay them minimum wage and holiday pay.

Central London Employment Tribunal ruled that three drivers, who claimed they earned the equivalent of about £5 an hour as self-employed contractors, should have been treated as workers.

Addison Lee, which uses 3,800 self-employed drivers in the capital, will now have to pay the drivers the minimum wage of £7.50 an hour, plus holiday pay, and back pay. 

In a fiery speech to the Labour party conference in Brighton, Roache said the tribunal ruling on Monday had marked “another win for the GMB”.

He also ridiculed Uber’s latest apology to Londoners for the “mistakes” that led it to losing its licence last week.

studioEAST via Getty Images

The taxi-hailing app firm was stripped of its license to operate in the capital after Transport for London said it failed to meet vetting standards for its drivers and safety requirements for passengers.

The decision sparked a petition, signed by 700,000 people, urging a rethink and today CEO Dara Khosrowshahi said “we will work with London to make things right”.

But union leader Roache was scathing about the company and widened his attack to urge consumers to shun firms that failed to treat workers properly.

After a protest staged by licensed minicab drivers against Uber in Brighton, he address the Labour conference to warn the public of the dangers of the ‘gig economy’.

Unkown

“We have a moral responsibility, these things are not cheap for nothing. They are cheap at the expense of workers,” he said.

“It’s not good enough for you to get into an Uber cab and then pretend it was a proper licensed one,. he said, to cheers from Labour delegates.

“It’s not good enough to use Ryanair when Michael O’Leary abuses his workers by making them pay a fee for them to interview for a job – and then pay them nothing for six months while they train.

“It’s not good enough to use Amazon because it’s cheap because behind the glossy website there are people being abused.

“And it’s not good enough to go in Starbucks and when you come sneaking out, wrap your hand around the cup in case anyone sees you. I want you to do something about it.

“And for those unscrupulous employers, I tell you this, you keep abusing your workers and GMB are coming after you!”

PA Wire/PA Images
Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary

HuffPost UK revealed last week that staff working at Amazon’s flagship warehouse take home less than the minimum wage after being forced to pay for bus fares to get to work. 

A similar employment appeals tribunal to the Addison Lee case is due to open on Wednesday, when Uber resumes a legal action brought by two of its 40,000 drivers.

Roache said that he was proud of the GMB’s work in challenging Uber and forcing a court case which ruled that its drivers were employees, not self-employed.  

“Of course they are employees. I’ve never seen a court judgement so scathing. Just hot off the press today, Addison Lee has just been held to another one.

“Their drivers are employees too, another win for the GMB. Why does this matter, why is this important? Because by not paying their taxes, by not playing fair they’ve created an uneven playing field.”

Addison Lee said it was “disappointed” with the ruling, which was handed down by employment judge David Pearl. He concluded its defence of the self-employment arrangement “defied evidential gravity”.

“We have always had, and are committed to maintaining, a flexible and fair relationship which generates work for 3,800 drivers,” a spokesman for the company said, adding that it would review the decision.

PA Wire/PA Images

Liana Wood, solicitor at Leigh Day which represented the drivers, said Addison Lee had “sought to deny its drivers the most basic workers’ rights” and that its drivers “very often work very long hours, in excess of 60 hours a week, in order to just earn enough to cover their basic living costs”.

The GMB boss Roache praised London Mayor Sadiq Khan “for taking his bold and brave decision” on Uber.

“I’ve just seen this morning that the new CEO of Uber has issued an apology. And admitted that they got it wrong. Well isn’t it interesting how quickly apologies and wrongdoing comes up when the bottom line is under threat? That doesn’t happen automatically, it happens because we fight, because we take these people on.

“So, OK Uber that’s a start. You’ve admitted you got it wrong, but it’s actions now not words.  Actions to treat your employees with the dignity and respect that they deserve. And actions to ensure regulation and more importantly the safety of the public who climb into your cars.Be transparent about your figures.”

Jeremy Corbyn said at the weekend that he didn’t think he had used Uber cars.