Ride sharing and food courier app Uber has signed an agreement with the GMB union. The agreement covers Uber drivers, but excludes Uber Eats couriers.
According to the GMB, the agreement allows them to discuss issues including “national earnings principles”, pensions, and discretionary benefits. The agreement does not, however, enable the GMB to collectively bargain in a formal sense, and submit claims on pay and conditions on behalf of drivers.
Following a legal challenge initiated by Uber drivers, who were then members of the GMB, Uber has been forced to recognise drivers as employees entitled to guaranteed rights, including a minimum wage. Uber has committed to paying all drivers at least the “National Living Wage” (in fact significantly less than an actual living wage) for their working hours. Exactly what constitutes working hours have been, and will undoubtedly continue to be, a matter over which Uber and workers’ organisations disagree.
A GMB statement said: “This groundbreaking deal between GMB and Uber could be the first step to a fairer working life for millions of people. History has been made. This agreement shows gig economy companies don’t have to be a wild west on the untamed frontier of employment rights. When tech private hire companies and unions work together like this, everyone benefits — bringing dignified, secure employment back to the world of work. We now call on all other operators to follow suit.”
Other unions organising Uber drivers had a less rosy view of the deal. The United Private Hire Drivers’ union (UPHD, a section of the Independent Workers’ union of Great Britain, IWGB) said:
“It is concerning to see reports that this recognition agreement will not allow for bargaining over earnings. Recognition agreements are only worth so much at best, but to take key areas of negotiation off the table before discussions have even started is appalling, particularly as Uber still fails to uphold the law on minimum wage after the Supreme Court ruling earlier this year.
“Until we see Uber meaningfully engage with drivers, we see these announcements as yet another PR stunt by Uber to try to give off the impression they are doing right by their drivers while continuing to exploit us and deny us what is rightfully ours.”
The App Drivers and Couriers Union (ADCU), which was formed following a split from the UPHD, which itself originated in a split from the GMB, said: “Overall, this is a step in the right direction, but there are significant obstacles in the way of ADCU reaching a similar agreement. For us, compliance with legal minimums should be the point of departure for any union agreement with Uber.”