23/05/2018 15:22 BST

Uber Accused Of 'Quick PR Win' Over New Insurance Offer

'We called drivers ‘partners’, but didn’t always act like it.'

PA Archive/PA Images

The taxi-hailing firm Uber is to offer insurance cover for its drivers, including sickness, injury and maternity and paternity payments, it has announced.

The company’s chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi, said Uber had focused too much on growth and not enough on its workers. “We called drivers ‘partners’, but didn’t always act like it,” he said on Wednesday. 

“(The insurance) also provides protection for major life events that happen off trip like severe sickness and injury, maternity or paternity leave and jury duty,” he added.

The firm said it was launching a partner protection programme in partnership with the insurer Axa, funded by Uber with no cost to drivers.

To be eligible for the insurance, a driver must have completed 150 trips in the previous eight weeks.

The scheme starts on June 1 and will cover more than 150,000 Uber workers across Europe, including 70,000 drivers and couriers in the UK

But critics described the move as a “quick PR win”, and accused the firm of not doing enough to tackle fundamental worker issues.

The firm has been beset by allegations of exploitation and poor worker protections, amid other claims of sexual assault by its drivers.

Transport for London (TfL) described Uber as “not fit and proper” in its decision to revoke the firm’s right to operate in the capital last year.

James Farrar, of the International Workers Union of Great Britain, said: “It’s good to see Uber is reacting to the pressure piled on by (our) campaigns and legal action.

“Sadly, this is once again a case of tinkering around the edges for a quick PR win, rather than dealing with the issue at hand.

He added: “If Uber really cares about the workers on which the business relies, it should stop fighting us in court and give the drivers the rights they are entitled to under the law.”

Mick Rix, national officer of the GMB union, said: “At long last Uber are starting to listen to GMB members’ complaints regarding the company’s treatment of drivers and denying them their rights.

“This is a major step in the right direction, but our successful court victories, winning workers’ rights for Uber drivers, could have all been avoided if they had sat down and talked with GMB from the start.”