Uber drivers in London, Nottingham and Birmingham are staging a 24-hour strike, with a “digital picket line” that came into place at 1pm.
However, on Tuesday afternoon it appeared to be having minimal impact on the service, as numerous cars still appeared to be operating in all three cities.
The action has been coordinated by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) and comes as the company continues to appeal against a court ruling on employee rights.
The striking drivers are calling for an increase in fares to £2 per mile (they are currently paid £1.25 in London), a 10% reduction in commissions paid by drivers, and for the company to implement rules that “respect worker rights for drivers, including the payment of at least the minimum wage and paid holidays”.
By 2pm, crowds of drivers and their supporters had gathered outside the company’s London offices:
Similar scenes unfolded in Birmingham, where there were visibly fewer protesters:
It’s unclear what impact the strike is having on services but at 2PM on Tuesday, users could still book Ubers in London, with multiple cars avaliable around transport hubs including Euston and Liverpool Street stations.
According to the app, there were also numerous cars avaliable near Birmingham New Street station and Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena.
Earlier in the day, a union spokesperson told HuffPost UK that they were expecting “hundreds at the demos and thousands observing the strike”.
In an article for HuffPost UK, one Uber driver – who wishes to remain anonymous – said today marks the first time he’s ever gone on strike.
“Uber says we drivers have amazing freedom and flexibility, but the reality is I am working 70 to 80 hours a week because that is what the economics of the job dictates,” he writes, adding that he works “on average 30 hours per week just to break even”.
“We’re tired of waiting for central government or the Mayor or the courts to come and help us,” the driver says. “In working with the IWGB union, we drivers are taking matters into our hands to take strike action.
“I have no illusions about how difficult it will be for us to force Uber to be fair to workers like me. Today is just the beginning.”
James Farrar, Chair of the IWGB’s United Private Hire Drivers branch, said: “After years of watching take home pay plummet and with management bullying of workers on the rise, workers have been left with no choice but to take strike action.
“We ask the public to please support drivers by not crossing the digital picket line by not using the app during strike time.”
In response to the strike plans, an Uber spokesperson claimed the company is “always looking to make improvements to ensure drivers have the best possible experience and can make the most of their time driving on the app”.
“That’s why over the last few months we’ve introduced dozens of new features, including sickness, injury, maternity and paternity protections,” they added. “We continue to look at ways to help drivers increase their earnings and our door is always open if anyone wants to speak to us about any issues they’re having.”
The company is appealing against a Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) judgement which ruled that drivers had the right be treated as workers - who have entitlements including holiday pay - instead of independent contractors, as they are now.