The Green Party has shown its support for a Supreme Court ruling made on 19 February, which has outlined that Uber must treat its drivers as workers, rather than self-employed.
The ruling saw six justices unanimously dismiss Uber’s appeal to the Supreme Court, after the company previously lost a landmark employment tribunal which stated the firm must begin to pay drivers holiday pay and the national living wage.
Uber is now expected to adhere to the ruling, which is likely to leave thousands of Uber drivers entitled to holiday pay and minimum wage for the first time. Uber will not be able to launch further appeals against the ruling.
Uber is one of the largest businesses in the gig economy, which sees workers paid per ‘gig’, rather than a regular wage. Although this provides workers with flexibility, the gig economy has come under criticism for its lack of workplace protection, leaving workers with none of the financial benefits that employees are entitled to, such as sick pay, holiday pay or redundancy pay.
The Green Party has been a long-term opponent of the working conditions operating inside the gig economy and remains critical of its exploitation of workers, which sees many in the sector continuing to work for less than minimum wage.
The Green Party has previously called for the UK Government to tighten laws around employment status and has advocated for an improvement in basic workers’ rights for those working in the gig-economy, to include sick pay, holiday pay and pay above minimum wage.
The gig economy is also currently thought to cost the government billions of pounds in lost taxes through missing tax and national insurance contributions.
After a 2017 study conducted by the Trades Union Congress found that the gig economy costs the UK £4 billion in lost tax and benefits annually, Green Party co-leader Jonathan Bartley said: “The gig-economy offers flexibility but in reality, leaves workers without basic rights and vulnerable to exploitation.
“Add to this the lost tax revenue which could be supporting greater social security or the NHS, and it's clear that the Government has been left standing by a rapidly changing world. It needs to get a grip on the gig-economy.”
Green Party London Assembly Member Caroline Russell has been advocating for companies to recognise drivers as workers for many years, having proposed a motion to lobby the government to make worker rights a condition for private hire operator licenses across London back in March 2017.
She said: "The ruling that Uber drivers are workers is huge, and a long time coming. Two former Uber drivers Yaseen Aslam and James Farrar spent six years fighting to win their rights as workers.
"Being recognised as workers is important for everyone working in the gig economy. Without that status people don’t get basic rights like a minimum wage, holiday pay and sick pay – this could have made such a difference to drivers needing to self-isolate during the coronavirus pandemic.
"As a Green Party member of the London Assembly, I have supported the Uber drivers throughout this legal process. In 2017 I got the Assembly to agree to a motion asking the Mayor to lobby government for powers to make workers’ rights a condition of all future private hire operator licenses. The Mayor should push for this now.
"The impact of Uber on London has been catastrophic – they enticed their drivers into personal debt through car loans, congested and polluted our streets with thousands of new private hire cars and disrupted the rest of the taxi and minicab trade. Uber’s business model has now been found to be illegal. Uber must accept that workers’ rights and the good of London come before their profits.
"Uber’s claim to be a tech company looks like a ploy to avoid paying VAT – now it’s clear they are a transport company the money they owe, which is thought to be at least £1bn, should be paid.
"Uber delayed justice for these workers by fighting earlier rulings. Government should now, finally, step in and clear up the status of workers in the gig economy, protecting their rights rather than leaving them to fight for them."