Uber agrees historic deal allowing drivers to join GMB union

First agreement between a gig economy service and a union will not include Eats delivery riders

Last modified on Wed 26 May 2021 13.38 EDT

Uber is to recognise the GMB trade union in the UK for its private hire drivers, marking the first deal between a union and a gig economy ride-hailing service.

Uber has signed the deal two months after agreeing to guarantee its 70,000 UK drivers a minimum hourly wage, holiday pay and pensions in March after a landmark supreme court ruling.

The union recognition agreement, like the pay deal, does not apply to delivery riders for the Uber Eats food service, which works with about 30,000 couriers.

Among the issues likely to be taken up by the GMB is that Uber’s new pay scheme ignores the supreme court ruling that drivers’ working time should be calculated from the moment they log on to its app to work until they log off.

The App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU), whose founding members were lead claimants in the employment tribunal which led to the supreme court ruling, said trade union engagement with Uber was “a welcome development.”

However, the ADCU said it would not sign a recognition deal with Uber as the group “continues to violate basic employment law such as the right to minimum wage and holiday for all working time despite the recent UK supreme court ruling found in our favour.”

Uber, like many delivery and courier groups, had argued that its drivers were independent self-employed “partners” not entitled to basic rights enjoyed by workers, which include the legally enforceable minimum hourly wage and a workplace pension.

In February, the UK supreme court dismissed Uber’s appeal against a 2016 employment tribunal ruling that its drivers should be classed as workers. That legal case was supported by the GMB.

The Uber deal is a step on from the first gig economy recognition agreement signed by GMB with Hermes in 2019 under which the courier group offered drivers guaranteed minimum wages and holiday pay.

Under that agreement Hermes’ drivers continued to be self-employed but could opt in to contracts with better rights.

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