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.
Under the recognition deal, the GMB will have access to drivers’ meeting hubs to help and support them. It will also be able to represent drivers if they lose access to the Uber app, and it will meet quarterly with management to discuss driver issues and concerns.
Drivers will not become members automatically but will be able to sign up to take part in collective bargaining.
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.
Mick Rix, national officer of the GMB, 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.”
Jamie Heywood, the regional general manager for Uber in northern and eastern Europe, said: “Whilst Uber and GMB may not seem like obvious allies, we’ve always agreed that drivers must come first, and today we have struck this important deal to improve workers’ protections. Uber is the only major player in the industry to provide drivers with a national living wage guarantee, holiday pay and a pension, and this historic agreement means that Uber will be the first in the industry to ensure that its drivers also have full union representation.”
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.
• The headline of this article was amended on 27 May 2021 to better reflect the content of the story.