One of the most important questions for this research is what social
protections are appropriate for employees of the uberization and how to arrange
such a protection. Consequently, with an increasing number of independent
worker, society suspect that the gig economy is a threat to the EU’s conventional
working conditions. The main issue is the status of those working in the
sharing economy, with workers mostly being classified as independent and not
employees. As a result, those who do not have a formal employee status, are
often placed outside of social protection.
Uber is very appealing. The company demonstrated how easy it is to
change a business model and how to uberize the economy. And with this abrupt
change it is impossible to answer all the questions in a short amount of time.
Who should be paying the minimum wage, what about holiday pay or sick leave? Technology
companies are labelled “disruptive” for a reason.
In the working contract
that drivers need to sign for Uber, workers are defined as “partners”, not
employees. The work provides for the drivers are “business opportunities” and
like mentioned before, the company indicates that it is a “platform” or
technology company and not a transportation company. However, in 2015, the
first Uber driver filed a case against Uber. Barbara Ann Berwick, who worked
for Uber for eight weeks, claimed that she was an Uber employee, not an
independent contractor; that Uber is behaving like an employer. The California
Labour Commission sided with Barbara Ann Berwick and asked Uber to reimburse
her. California law requires companies to repay employees for business expenses.
Uber has different opinions with
employees over worker rights. All over the world workers are complaining,
lawsuits are filed and Uber is even banned in some areas, like Denmark, China,
the northern territory of Australia and the state of Alaska.
Uber is not only a big conversation is the US but also in the UK. Not
only is the European Commission (see How Do We Protect Jobs in an Uberization World?) deliberating about protecting the independent
workers but in the UK, the British government is also concerned about the
labour protection. Since the freelancers are considered as a new category of
workers, the protection laws are not up to date and while some people prefer
the flexibility the jobs are offering, others need to tolerate the loss of job
security and uncertainty when it comes to the next payment. The main critic is
that uberized businesses deprive workers of their rights.
Last year, two Uber drivers won a tribunal case against Uber. They
argued to be classified as workers, not independent contractors, thus taking
the control over their working conditions form the ride-hailing firm. This has
major consequences for labour rights in our uprising gig economy. But like most
big companies, Uber is not happy with this result and challenged the ruling at
the tribunal in London. Their argument is that most drivers prefer their
current status as self-employed workers.
In July 2017, Prime Minister Theresa May promised that the government
will act “to ensure that the interests of employees on traditional contracts,
the self-employed, and those people working in the ‘gig’ economy are all
properly protected… Our response to the changing world of work cannot be to try
to stop the clock. We are an open, innovative economy and we must remain that
You can find a website on the internet called uberlawsuit.com were you
can “Read about an important lawsuit
brought by Uber drivers to recover the tips they should have received and
reimbursement for expenses” 2
In fact one big problem with Uber is that apparently workers don’t receive the
tips they made during a ride. Uber tells passengers that they don’t need to
tip, the gratuity would be already included in the bill.
The big question remains, is Uber controlling and directing its driver,
because if that is the case, Uber behaves like an employee and the workers
should be classified as employees and not independent contractors. Several
courts think that the answer is yes, but the opposition is not backing down.
One thing we know is that is the driver accepts an assignment, he has some
rules to follow: he needs to drive the same route that the Uber app is
proposing, furthermore Uber tells their drivers what to talk and not to talk
about with costumers.