On the Picket Line

App taxi drivers’ union grows, organizes protests across UK

By Pete Clifford
October 18, 2021

MANCHESTER, England — “We need protection from the way Uber treats us. We need to stand together, it’s the only way,” Nasir Khan, one of about 25 Uber taxi drivers enthusiastically protesting outside its Manchester hub Sept. 29, told the Militant. The action was called by the App Drivers and Couriers Union, along with similar protests in eight other cities, the first time there have been a number of the union’s actions outside of London.

“I joined the union two weeks ago, the moment I heard about it,” Mudasar Siddique said. Khan added, “We have more than 100 members now in Manchester. We’re going to set up a branch.”

Despite a U.K. Supreme Court ruling in February that Uber should treat the drivers as workers and pay them the minimum wage, bosses have found ways around the decision. Instead of paying workers for the time they are logged onto the app and available to drive, Uber only pays for actual time driving a fare. The App Drivers and Couriers Union says this means they are not paid for 40% of their time on the job.

Speaking to 40 drivers at the London protest, James Farrar, who filed the court action against Uber and has been building the union, said, “We want Uber to comply and pay all the working time from log on to log off.

“After five years of driving for Uber with good ratings, they just deactivated my account. They don’t even call you to hear evidence against you. There is no procedure. They are ruining people’s lives.” The union says there have been over 1,000 arbitrary sackings since 2018.

Here in Manchester, Iqbal Ahmed said, “We want 2 pounds [$2.72] a mile, a cut in the commission Uber takes from us, and an end to unfair sackings.” Drivers said they were getting 1.40 pounds a mile, but Uber bosses cut the rate to 1 pound and ramped up the company’s commission  to 25% of every fare.

Siddique said many drivers are angered by the fixed price Uber sells the rides for on its app before the trip even starts. “We get stung by this,” he said, “when the ride changes and gets longer due to traffic problems or when passengers change their route.”