UK

Public Love Of Uber Could Override Concern For Workers' Rights, Warns Jobs Tsar

Rules over minimum wage and holiday pay could become 'price worth paying'.

11/10/2017 13:22 BST | Updated 11/10/2017 13:22 BST
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Public love of Uber could override workers' rights, the government's modern working tsar has said

The public’s love of apps such as Uber and Deliveroo could ultimately override concerns about workers’ rights, the government’s jobs tsar has said.

Matthew Taylor told a parliamentary inquiry into modern work on Wednesday that consumer convenience could negate worries over the minimum wage, holiday and sick pay.

“Part of the reason well intentioned people use Uber is that when they speak to Uber drivers they generally enjoy being Uber drivers,” Taylor told a joint committee of MPs.

Parliament
Jobs tsar Matthew Taylor said workers' rights could be seen as a price worth paying for the convenience of platform apps like Uber

“I use Uber from time to time and if I got an Uber car and the driver said to me ‘My life is one of misery and oppression’, then I wouldn’t do it again.

“[Instead] they say ‘It is good to be able to drive when I want to drive’. And I think there are certain benefits of that platform, you know about the driver and the way you can rate it and those kinds of things.

“I think it is a legitimate business model as long as it abides by the general regulatory framework that we want for our labour market.

“But... if drivers find they can’t work when they want to and if consumers don’t have the service when they want it, then we may well find that people say ‘If that’s the price we have to pay, we don’t want the regulations’.”

Some 600,000 people have signed a petition to keep Uber in London after the firm lost its operating licence in a shock ruling by Transport for London (TfL).

“I think it is very important to think about what it is workers and citizens value in these platforms,” Taylor added.

‘Bit of a sin’

One Labour MP said people who use Uber think it is “a bit of a sin” to do so as a result of “pretty dodgy working practices”, but they think “to hell with it”.

“Convenience for consumers seems to be trumping everything,” Peter Kyle said.

The MP for Hove, east Sussex, said that Uber were “revelling in their bad boy status” and “going to war against regulators”.

TfL, which regulates transport in the capital, said its review of Uber’s operation had found the firm was not a “fit and proper” operator, citing public safety concerns.

Taylor’s review into modern work and the so-called gig economy, commissioned by Prime Minister Theresa May, was published over the summer.

It recommended that those working for apps like Uber be considered “dependent contractors” and be entitled to some workers’ rights such as the minimum wage, holiday and sick pay.

The report will be used to inform future laws and regulations which will need to reflect the changing nature of work in Britain.

Currently Uber drivers are technically self-employed and choose when and where they work. As a result they are not entitled to the national minimum wage.

But two Uber drivers have taken the firm to an employment tribunal over their rights, arguing they are, in fact, workers for the firm.

Lead claimants, James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam, won a case last November which found the pair were workers for the firm and entitled to benefits such as the minimum wage, sick pay and annual leave.

Uber is now appealing that decision.

At a parliamentary hearing on Tuesday, Uber and Deliveroo both highlighted concerns over worker status for those using their apps to make money.