London’s landmark Uber ruling proves the charade of misclassifying workers must stop

Another milestone was reached last week in the continuing struggle to make Uber and other ride-hailing app operators respect workers’ rights. And like the other challenges, it has been led by workers and their unions.

The latest success saw London’s Employment Tribunal reject an appeal by Uber against an earlier ruling that its drivers are workers and entitled to workers’ rights. The case had been spearheaded by Uber drivers with the support of their union, the GMB.

This judgment reinforces the need for change underlined by another decision in the UK capital, which stripped Uber of its taxi operating licence.

But these union-inspired moves, which have been replicated in many countries worldwide, aren’t just piling on the pain for the company. They’re an indication that ride-hailing app operators – and there are many more of them now than just Uber – must work within the regulations, local, national and international, developed to protect workers and passengers alike.

One vital aspect of this, and the one that unions are uniquely placed to challenge, is the attempt to misclassify workers’ employment status under the cloak of the gig economy and lowering costs to consumers.

The inescapable lesson for Uber (and all enterprises using similar tactics to undermine worker status for their own profits) is that their charade will not be allowed to continue. Their supposed self-employment business model will be challenged by us, by regulatory authorities and by local and national governments.

The ITF is not against new transport technologies, but we are against a return in the 21st century to the employment conditions of the 19th century.

Uber must abandon its business model, which undermines or ignores workers’ rights and seeks to sidestep regulations that protect passengers and road users, and promote safe, sustainable transport.

Until it does we and the wider union movement will be there to hold it to account, whether in the courts, in employment tribunals, town halls or parliament.