Uber will sign a groundbreaking agreement with one of the largest unions in the UK, the first time the Silicon Valley company has recognized a union of its drivers around the world.
The GMB union will be able to represent tens of thousands of Uber drivers in the UK and give them collective bargaining powers, Bloomberg News reported, citing anonymous sources.
The move follows Uber’s defeat in the UK’s Supreme Court this year, which ruled that the drivers are employees and therefore entitled to a minimum wage, among other benefits.
Companies in the gig economy, such as Uber, have fought against unionization for years, arguing that traditional work structures were incompatible with flexible working and fluctuating customer demand.
That is now starting to change, especially in Europe. Uber has already signed collective bargaining agreements for its food delivery couriers in Italy, while the drivers in Germany are employed by fleet management companies.
Unions representing gig economy workers have sprung up in recent years to push for greater protections, including the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain and the App Drivers and Couriers Union, but the GMB is the first to be recognized by Uber .
In the past, the GMB has been among Uber’s most hostile critics, accusing the company of “Dickensian actions and attitudes inconsistent with today’s world of employment” and applauding Transport for London’s 2019 decision to suspend its London operating license. , which was reinstated by an appeals court in September.
Last year, after vigorous campaigns by Uber and its rivals, California voters approved Proposition 22, exempting gig-economy companies from a new labor law and enshrining drivers’ status as independent contractors.
This week, researchers at Oxford University condemned the way Uber treated its drivers and food couriers. Uber got a score of just 2 out of 10 – below rivals Just Eat and Deliveroo for food delivery, but ahead of taxi services Ola and Bolt – based on the researchers’ assessment of fair working conditions, including pay and appeals against management decisions.
James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam of the App Drivers & Couriers Union, who led the Supreme Court case against Uber, said the GMB deal was a “step in the right direction.” But they added that they remained “concerned” about certain aspects of the agreement.
“At the moment, ADCU is unwilling to enter into a recognition agreement with Uber,” they said, saying the company “is still in violation of basic labor laws.”
“We are troubled by Uber’s divisive and anti-union behavior in the United States, most recently in California and New York State, where Uber has used the appearance of blunt collective bargaining agreements to effectively weaken the power of workers in rather than the opposite, ”said the ADCU. “Of course we are concerned about Uber’s motivations this side of the Atlantic, not just in the UK but across Europe as well.”