Uber drivers in the UK will now get better treatment from Uber thanks to the courts ruling the company can’t as robustly exploit their drivers. The way drivers get gigs and subsequently paid by the company structurally mean the company has control all aspects of the process, which means the drivers are workers since they actually have no control over key aspects of the job. This is a blow against Uber which skirts the laws in multiple countries and this decision in the UK will resonant throughout the entire gig economy.
The court considered several elements in its judgement:
Uber set the fare which meant that they dictated how much drivers could earn
Uber set the contract terms and drivers had no say in them
Request for rides is constrained by Uber who can penalise drivers if they reject too many rides
Uber monitors a driver’s service through the star rating and has the capacity to terminate the relationship if after repeated warnings this does not improve
Looking at these and other factors, the court determined that drivers were in a position of subordination to Uber where the only way they could increase their earnings would be to work longer hours.
According to economists the economy is the labour market is fine as unemployment is relatively low. The truth is different from the on-paper measurements. High employment numbers don’t mean much if the jobs don’t pay well and the working conditions are miserable. The modern “gig economy” is to blame for this counterintuitive economic situation. Governments are starting to catch on that these “modern” jobs aren’t nearly as beneficial to workers or the economy as more traditional jobs were. As a result new laws are being passed to prevent workers from being exploited by the likes of Uber and other gig economy giants.
AB 5’s reclassification provision would also allow gig workers to unionize, granting them a modicum of protection. Big Tech greeted previous unionization efforts with outright hostility. In November, Google publicly fired five engineers involved in union activity. Other companies, like Uber, use antitrust law to bar drivers from collective action to address their concerns.
A more radical approach would be to break up the Big Tech monopolies that have such a tight grip on California and its economy, making it more difficult for these companies to dictate the terms of employment. Presidential candidates such as Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have vowed to dismantle giants like Facebook and Google if elected. Sanders’s plan, arguably the most ambitious, would order companies to offer workers more benefits and higher wages and pensions. Workers would also need to make up at least 45 percent of companies’ board memberships, ensuring that they would have a seat at the table when executives make decisions that affect their livelihood.
Foodora workers are looking for justice for the way they have been ripped off and poorly treated by Foodora. Foodora is like any other gig economy company insofar that it takes an existing business model but places the operating costs onto independent contractors. Due to legal loopholes Foodora workers are easier to exploit and get less protection than workers labelled as employees – and this issue isn’t unique to Foodora. Most gig economy “jobs” are questionable.
In the USA, Trump’s anti-labour government has failed to protect workers so individual states are starting to act. California is looking at legislation to protect people who work in the gig economy.
Last Wednesday, the California assembly passed legislation codifying an important California supreme court decision: in order for companies to treat workers as independent contractors, the workers must be free from company control, doing work that’s not central to the company’s business, and have an independent business in that trade.
Whatever national rule eventually emerges for defining gig workers, they’ll need a different system of social insurance than was the case when steady full-time employment was the norm.
For example, they need income insurance rather than unemployment insurance. One model: If someone’s monthly income dips below their average monthly income from all jobs over the preceding five years, they automatically receive half the difference for up to a year.