Uber drivers protest ahead of stock market flotation

By agency reporter
May 8, 2019

On 8 May 2019, Uber drivers will log off the app and stage protests in London, Birmingham, Nottingham and Glasgow, ahead of the minicab firm's stock market flotation the following day.

The drivers, who are part of the United Private Hire Drivers Branch (UPHD) of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), will observe a nine hour boycott of the app between 7am and 4pm, and lead demonstrations across the world in the lead up to Uber's Initial Public Offering (IPO).

UPHD calls on the public to not cross the digital picket line by using the app to book Uber services during these times.

Drivers are protesting against the IPO which will lead to large payouts for executives and venture capitalist investors, despite failures to resolve pay issues for drivers.

With an expected valuation of $100 billion, Uber's founder, venture capitalists and management will become fabulously wealthy overnight. Uber's founder stands to personally gain $9 billion.

However, the union says Uber's business model is unsustainable in its dependence upon large scale worker exploitation, tax avoidance and regulatory arbitrage. Since 2016, successive judgements from the Employment Tribunal, Employment Appeal Tribunal and Court of Appeal have all said Uber drivers are entitled to basic workers' rights, such as the minimum wage and holiday pay. Uber's own prospectus recently filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission admits:

  • Uber believes the prospect of having to respect worker rights and pay VAT as a result of UPHD worker rights legal challenge to be a material risk to its business model
  • Driver pay and job satisfaction will fall as Uber seeks to cut costs to become profitable
  • Analysis by UPHD shows that Uber drivers currently earn on average £5 per hour and work as much as 30 hours per week before breaking even.

The drivers are demanding:

  • Fares be increased to £2 per mile
  • Commissions paid by drivers to Uber be reduced from 25 per cent to 15 per cent
  • An end to unfair dismissals
  • Uber to respect the rulings the 2016 ruling of the Employment Tribunal confirming 'worker' status for drivers

James Farrar, Chair of the United Private Hire Drivers branch of the IWGB union 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."

Commenting on the Uber Drivers’ day of action, Owen Espley, Labour Rights campaigner, at War on Want said: “Uber is an emblem of how technology is being used as a smokescreen to deny workers’ their basic rights such as sick pay, holiday pay, guaranteed hours and a minimum wage. There is nothing modern about exploitation, or Uber’s continual denial of basic rights to the workers who deliver their service.

“Uber’s business model is an engine of inequality that will make some executives rich, whilst the workers who deliver the service face long hours and poverty pay.

“Uber drivers around the world taking action together teaches us that it is people power that can hold multinationals to account, and ensure technology is used to create a future where all workers earn a living wage and basic workers’ rights are respected.”

* War on Want  https://www.waronwant.org/

* The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain https://iwgb.org.uk/

[Ekk/6]

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