This gig economy union is waging a legal war against private hire firms

And they're confident they'll win.

They’ve just saved the jobs of cleaners through protest at Ernst & Young – and now they’re launching tribunal cases battle against three ‘gig economy’ firms. 

The Independent Workers of Great Britain say the cases “conclusively demonstrate that the problem of exploitation in the UK’s private hire industry stretches far beyond Uber.”

Key to the tribunal claims are the employment status of the drivers – with companies refusing to classify drivers at workers: despite in some cases demanding they do not work for any other firms.

The cases also cover minimum wage, holiday pay and unlawful deduction of wages against the companies operating in London, Glasgow and Birmingham.

  • Green Tomato Cars, London’s self-proclaimed “ethical operator”, has a client list including the NHS, the BBC and the Discovery channel
  • Blacklane, Germany’s fastest growing start-up, operates in over 250 cities in 50 countries, with a claim filed in Glasgow
  • A2B, Birmingham’s largest private hire operator and part of Veezu, has a total of 2,470 drivers in the UK

The IWGB say the companies incorrectly classify drivers as independent contractors – instead of workers. 

The union’s claim with “ethical” operator Green Tomato Cars alleges unlawful deduction of wages from a driver and a failure to pay holiday pay to one of its drivers.

A legal spokesperson for the union told Left Foot Forward:

“These are not the first companies in the gig economy that we are taking cases against. But we have members working in the gig economy and we are helping them.

“This is to claim for the rights they would have if they were classed as workers.”

The union say they have a strong case, although Green Tomato are expected to fight the claim.

In all cases the drivers are all members of IWGB’s United Private Hire Drivers (UPHD) branch, which is demanding basic employment rights for drivers. Firms do not have to pay holiday or sick pay if they class them as ‘contractors’.

IWGB General Secretary Dr Jason Moyer-Lee said: 

“The wide scale deprivation of employment rights is not unique to Uber, it is rampant across the private hire sector in the UK. With these actions the IWGB is stepping up its campaign to have private hire drivers recognised as the workers they are and enjoying the rights to which they are legally entitled.”

Left Foot Forward has seen a copy of a contract from Green Tomato which mandates 12-hour shifts and demands that the driver “Agrees to work exclusively for GTC and no other operators…[and to] only work within the geographic area as defined by GTC.”

It also suggests the driver ‘represents’ Green Tomato and offers a guaranteed hourly rate.

The union says the long hours represented working more than 48hrs without signing an opt-out, an alleged breach of working time regulations.

At A2B the IWGB are claiming for employment status after they allege the driver was required to wear a uniform and use a company-labelled car, which would prevent the driver from working for other private hire companies.

Left Foot Forward will be following the cases. Watch this space.

Josiah Mortimer is Editor of Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter.

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