LONDON — Hundreds of angry drivers chanted “Shame on Uber” as they marched around the Aldgate office of Uber U.K. here Oct. 9. Noisy drumbeats accompanied the chanting.
The action marked the beginning of a 24-hour strike by Uber drivers in London, Birmingham and Nottingham. “Uber is driving us into poverty” and “Uber end sweated labour now” were among the many banners and signs drivers carried. The action was organized by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain and its driver branch, United Private Hire Drivers.
Drivers logged out from the Uber app for the strike and asked potential riders to abstain from using Uber then.
The workers are fighting for a 10 percent reduction in the commission paid by the drivers to Uber (currently 25 percent for UberX). A central demand is that Uber implement the Employment and Employment Appeal Tribunal rulings that drivers be treated as workers, with payment of at least minimum wage, for holidays and the right to a union.
This protest follows actions in September by Uber Eats couriers, who deliver food by bike and scooter. Like Uber drivers, Uber Eats workers have an app on their smartphone where they get their jobs. Uber uses this to claim its workers are “independent contractors,” despite the ruling of the appeal tribunal.
If Uber bosses think you are a troublemaker or union organizer, they turn the app off and you’re out of a job. This helps them keep pay down and a union out. Even so, Uber drivers and couriers have been organizing strikes and protests, not only in the U.K. but in Australia, New Zealand, Spain, and the U.S.
The Independent Workers Union has called for a demonstration Oct. 30, which is the first day of the hearing in Uber bosses’ moves to overturn the Employment Appeal tribunal ruling. The ruling was handed down two years ago, but Uber continues to refuse to recognize the drivers as workers with rights.