In a landmark decision that marks the close of a years-long legal battle, the British Supreme Court has just ruled that Uber must classify its drivers as workers instead of the ‘self-employed’ designation that currently applies to Uber drivers in the US, Europe and elsewhere.
The ruling already looks set to jack up Uber’s labor costs, as Uber drivers in the UK are now officially entitled to minimum wage and holiday pay. Uber’s loss at the hands of Britain’s Supreme Court is the last leg of a lengthy legal battle: Uber appealed to the British Supreme Court after losing three earlier rounds.
Two former drivers-turned-activists celebrated the ruling: James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam – the two men who originally won an employment tribunal decision against Uber back in October 2016, told the BBC they were “thrilled and relieved” to hear the news.
“I think it’s a massive achievement in a way that we were able to stand up against a giant,“ Aslam (who is also president of the App Drivers & Couriers Union) told the BBC.
“We didn’t give up and we were consistent – no matter what we went through emotionally or physically or financially, we stood our ground.”
Uber initially appealed against the employment tribunal decision mentioned above, but the UK’s Employment Appeal Tribunal upheld the ruling in November 2017.
After that, the ride hailing colossus took its case to the British High Court, which upheld the ruling again in December 2018.
In a post-decision statement, Uber said it doesn’t automatically reclassify all of its UK drivers, and noted that since the case was filed it had added some driver benefits like insurance for sickness and injury.
“We are committed to doing more and will now consult with every active driver across the U.K. to understand the changes they want to see,” said Jamie Heywood, Uber’s regional chief for Northern and Eastern Europe.
Per the BBC, the key point made in the court’s ruling is this: Uber must consider its drivers “workers” from the time they log on to the app, until they log off.
Activists and some progressive economists celebrated the decision, claiming that “this is a win-win-win for drivers, passengers and cities. It means Uber now has the correct economic incentives not to oversupply the market with too many vehicles and too many drivers,” according to James Farrar, ADCU’s general secretary.
“The upshot of that oversupply has been poverty, pollution and congestion.”