‘Uber is not above the law’: MEP slams UK government over failure to protect gig economy workers

Taxi painted with the words "Uber Drivers Strike Oct 16"
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Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Leïla Chaibi is “astonished” that the UK government is no longer reviewing gig economy workers’ rights following the Supreme Court decision to classify drivers as workers. The French politician, a member of the European Parliament’s committee on employment and social affairs, said:

Uber is not above the law and must respect Lord Leggatt’s judgement.

The UK Government should now legislate and enforce the ruling made by the Supreme Court. It is important that the ruling is upheld in practice. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is now panicking and has wrongfully claimed that it is not possible to hire drivers as workers on permanent contracts.

The gig economy

Chaibi is a member of the democratic socialist La France Insoumise party. In November 2020, she submitted a draft proposal for a Directive on the legislation of gig economy workers across Europe. And the European Commission started consultations in February.

However, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy scrapped a review on plans to cut critical rights and protections for workers. And there’s no mention of such a review by the Taskforce on Innovation, Growth and Regulatory Reform (TIGRR) either.

Andy McDonald, Labour’s shadow secretary of state for employment rights and protections, said:

The Government must legislate to bring protection and security to all those in the gig economy. Uber should enforce the ruling of the Supreme Court and recognise that its drivers are workers rather than attempting to dodge the ruling by interpreting it in a way so that it applies to a tiny minority of its drivers, forcing other drivers to litigate for their rights.

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The government refused to answer Written Parliamentary Questions on whether the slashing of workers’ rights previously being considered by BEIS was within the scope of TIGGR to review.

Taking to task

Chaibi “welcomes” the ‘Recover and Rebuild: Power in the Workplace’ taskforce, which formed in February. Spearheaded by McDonald, the taskforce aims to shape a new deal for workers and develop Labour’s agenda on workplace rights.

Chaibi is “optimistic” about the European Commission’s proposal which should be available by the end of 2021. However, she’s sceptical of whether this will translate into legislation, citing the example of the corporate lobby in California paying “$200 million to cancel the AB5 law”.

Uber has spent over 800k Euro on lobbying in Europe in 2019. And it’s held 71 meetings with the European Commission since 2014, most recently in January 2021. Meetings may have been held with lower-level staff, but such information is not published by the European Commission.

Featured image via Flickr/Antoine Imbert

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