Skip to content

GIG Worker Rights

Man's hands on steering wheel driving car

2nd March 2020, France’s highest appeals court ruled that one of Uber’s former drivers should be recognized as an employee rather than as an independent contractor, putting France at the vanguard of other efforts around the world to give gig-economy workers broader employment rights.

The decision — which can’t be appealed — appears to be the first from a top court anywhere in the world that contradicts Uber‘s contention that its drivers are independent contractors. Uber is facing similar litigation in the U.S. and the U.K.

Uber recently won a case in Brazil, which ruled that its drivers aren’t employees.

The cases are part of a global battle over how to regulate employment in the gig economy, where apps distribute individual tasks to a pool of people that the app makers usually regard as independent contractors.

But is this the right approach? Uber is an App with power, that is all. Why don’t GIG workers have their own App, one that allows them to have their rights and FREEDOMS from being pushed around by companies like UBER and the many other businesses that turn humans into SURFs?

What would that look like? It would have a load of APIs so that it could connect to all the other APPs – like UBER – and then inside the GIG APP their would be services that protect and support the employee – such as saving plans, insurance, records of hours, triggers to show holiday hours when earned, ’employee’ benefits such as discounts, access to gyms, cycle purchase and all the things that people in real work have. The point of the App would be that its independent contractors would be an independent collective – a community – and they would be able to leverage benefits from the the many many platforms. It would allow them to really benefit from being independent.

The idea of a GIG worker is great for the worker in as much for the platform company. Both need each other. Today the platform app’s seem to exploit the GIG worker to some extent. There is not enough about the benefits of being independent, the system supports people in work; working for companies. The system needs to change.

By developing the GIG Worker APP data would come back into the control of the worker and they would be in a better position to argue a case together rather than individually or by holding the platform to account through a strike or sit-in for example.

In France, the Cour de Cassation upheld an appeals-court ruling that found that the former Uber driver’s “status as an independent contractor was fictitious” because he had a “relationship of subordination” to the company. That is because Uber dictates the terms of its drivers’ work, such as by setting their rates and determining their routes, and can sanction them when they violate Uber’s rules, the court said.

The court brushed aside Uber’s arguments, including that its drivers have no obligation to work and can connect to the app when they wish, saying that such a requirement is unnecessary to establish employment status.

The drivers should stop fighting in the courts and pull together through a process that helps both Platforms and Independent worker enjoy the benefits and freedoms that are there.

A similar issue remains under litigation in other parts of the world. In the U.K., an appeals court ruled in 2018 that Uber drivers have a type of employment status that entitles them to some rights such as paid vacations and a minimum wage. Uber’s appeal in that case will be heard in the U.K.’s Supreme Court in July.

In that case as well, a key issue is subordination, or deciding whether drivers are in a position of inferiority to Uber rather than on an equal footing, which would be the case in a commercial relationship, said Jason Galbraith-Marten, an employment lawyer with London law firm Cloisters who represents drivers in the worker-status case against Uber in the U.K.

This is the point – platform companies should welcome an independent place where they can share in the benefits of work. To be equal. There is an equal responsibility on both parties to be equal. The GIG workers should do their part and organise.

In California, a new law, which went into effect on Jan. 1, establishes a test that employers must pass to classify their workers as independent contractors. Employers who don’t meet the test must treat their workers as employees. Uber has said that it meets that test and so doesn’t need to reclassify drivers as employees.

At the same time, it has made a series of changes to give drivers in California more autonomy to bolster its argument. Drivers in the state can now see where riders are going, in effect choosing the trips they want to take. Some can even set fares.

Uber has also joined with other U.S. companies whose operations rely on so-called gig workers. Together, they collectively raised over $110 million for a ballot initiative this year, asking that state voters exempt them from the statute. If people vote in the companies’ favor, it would preclude further legal challenges and invalidate any current litigation based on the law.

But why do that – why not just allow the workers to be independent and support this process?

The ballot measure promises several other protections to gig workers that currently don’t exist, such as giving drivers 30 cents for each mile driven to account for gas and other vehicle costs, health-care subsidies for drivers who work 15 hours or more a week and occupational-accident insurance coverage while on the job.

Uber separately said that more than 100,000 drivers in the U.S. “have filed (or expressed an intention to file) arbitration demands against us that assert similar classification claims.” The company said it expects to pay $170 million to settle these cases, of which $149 million had been paid as of Dec. 31, 2019.

Such settlements “force these disputes into the shadows. Once the disputes make it to court, Uber’s business model is being unanimously rejected as it is tested against old systems and established rules, yet in the real world outside the court people have benefitted from Uber and their like. It’s time to make the worker and the app equal. This won’t happen through the courts.