Uber drivers in the UK and US have shut down. They’re on strike to demand fair pay and better working conditions. And it’s perfectly timed because Uber’s set to declare a multi-billion dollar valuation.
“One of the most abusive business models ever”
In the UK, drivers will shut down between 7am and 4pm in cities around the country. Drivers are also taking action across the US. As a statement from the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) explained, UK demands are simple. Increase fares to £2/mile, reduce driver commissions to Uber from 25% to 15% and end unfair dismissals
On Friday 10 May, Uber will file as a public company on the New York Stock Exchange. It’s anticipated it will be valued at up to $90bn. Yet, as NBC News reported, Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, said:
Wall Street investors are telling Uber… to cut down on driver income, stop incentives and go faster to Driverless Cars. Uber… think they pay drivers too much already… corporate owners are set to make billions, all while drivers are left in poverty and go bankrupt.
James Farrar, chair of the United Private Hire Drivers branch of the IWGB, said:
Uber’s flotation is shaping up to be an unprecedented international orgy of greed as investors cash in on one of the most abusive business models ever to emerge from Silicon Valley. It is the drivers who have created this extraordinary wealth but they continue to be denied even the most basic workplace rights. We call on the public not to cross the digital picket line on 8 May but to stand in solidarity with impoverished drivers across the world who have made Uber so successful.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn shared public support for the shut down:
Uber cannot be allowed to get away with huge payouts for their CEOs while refusing to pay drivers a decent wage and respect their rights at work. Stand with these workers on strike today, across the UK and the world, asking you not to use Uber between 7am and 4pm. #UberShutDown
— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) May 8, 2019
And so did Bernie Sanders in the US. He also pointed out the huge executive pay packets:
Tomorrow, join me in standing with Uber and Lyft drivers. Uber is a multibillion-dollar company. Its top five executives made $143 million last year. Their drivers should not be getting pay cuts—they deserve a living wage and decent benefits. https://t.co/JM1rAo0L8t
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) May 8, 2019
In the UK, workers plan to demonstrate outside Uber’s head offices in London. There’s widespread support and solidarity for the shutdown. Wetherspoon workers, who’ve also battled against poor gig economy wages and conditions, shared support:
The picket line. Don’t cross it.
Uber drivers to strike from 7am-4pm in demand of:
🛑 £2 per mile
🛑 Reduced commission
🛑 Recognition of worker rights
🛑 End to unfair dismissal.
Solidarity with striking drivers. #UberShutDown https://t.co/qFtZ7KYgYf
— SpoonStrike (@SpoonStrike) May 8, 2019
One tweet appeared to show just what Uber workers are up against from the company:
— Gimpo (@mrgimpson) May 8, 2019
Uber drivers also explained how much profit the company makes from their hard work:
As an Uber driver Whatever I earn I get only 50% of it. Uber takes 25% commissions and Government takes 25% Tax. #Uber should reduce commission charge. I work 75hrs a week in order to earn a living #UberShutDown
— Hanif Y (@yakowlangi) May 8, 2019
And although today’s action is about Uber, it’s vital to remember that millions of people face similar working conditions:
#UberShutDown and whilst we're at it let's not forget the millions of 'self employed' being exploited today across all sectors. Construction, care, sales…
— #AllRacismMatters Lil'oldme (@relovedreams) May 8, 2019
An IWGB statement explained that most Uber drivers earn around £5 per hour. So they need to work up to “30 hours per week before breaking even”. It continued:
Uber’s business model is unsustainable in its dependence upon large scale worker exploitation. Since 2016, successive judgements from the UK’s Employment Tribunal, Employment Appeal Tribunal and Court of Appeal have all said Uber drivers are being unlawfully denied basic worker rights, such as the minimum wage and holiday pay.
Uber workers need us all to stand with them in solidarity and support this shutdown. Because it’s disgusting that a few people make such huge profits from thousands of hard-working, poorly paid drivers.
Featured image via Pexels
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