Posted: 19.02.21 at 20:28 by Martin Kerin - Labour councillor for Grays Riverside ward
Occasional Nub News columnist and local councillor Martin Kerin offers us his reflections on a landmark decision in the rights of workers.
I AM writing to wholeheartedly welcome the decision today (Friday, 19 February) of the UK Supreme Court that Uber’s workers must be classified for what they really are – workers, not self-employed.
This decision will lead to Uber’s workers being entitled to, among other things, the minimum wage and holiday pay. I have consistently stated that the ‘gig economy’ is creating a new class of worker: the ‘precariat.’
These workers survive from gig to gig, living precariously under insecure working conditions. To classify Uber workers as ‘self-employed’ is an insult to the millions of people who are genuinely self-employed, with the control and autonomy over their working lives that genuine self-employment brings.
I wrote about the perils of the gig economy last year, when I said: “The fragility of the increasing numbers of ‘gig’ and freelance workers has been cruelly exposed by the sudden shutting down of the economy and the delays in the various support packages announced by the Chancellor.
"Living ‘gig to gig’ without a decent safety net and the prospect of a paltry £95 per week if you fall ill is something which shouldn’t be tolerated in 21st century Britain.”
Covid has simply amplified everything that is wrong with bogus self-employment and the rapid ‘gigification’ of the economy.
James Farrar, General Secretary of the App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU) said of today’s ruling: “…with fares down 80% due to the pandemic, many drivers have been struggling financially and feel trapped in Uber's system.
"We're seeing many of our members earning £30 gross a day right now…self-employment grants issued by the government only cover 80% of a driver's profits, which isn't even enough to pay for their costs. If we had these rights today, those drivers could at least earn a minimum wage to live on."
The onslaught of the pandemic has forced us all to rethink what ‘normal’ used to be, and whether we want to return to want to it at all. It is time to reimagine and work towards a new normal. One in which workers are treated with dignity and respect. One in which genuine self-employment is chosen, not forced upon the worker.
Today’s judgement is one small welcome step towards this.