Andy McDonald – 2021 Speech on Uber

The speech made by Andy McDonald, the Labour MP for Middlesbrough, in the House of Commons on 24 February 2021.

Last Friday’s Supreme Court ruling on Uber was a landmark victory for working people, and testament to the hard work of the GMB union, the App Drivers and Couriers Union and the drivers who brought the action. It rejected Uber’s bogus claim that its drivers are self-employed, ruling instead that they are workers and therefore entitled to basic rights that they have so far been denied, such at the national minimum wage and holiday pay. The ruling has far-reaching consequences for tens of thousands of Uber drivers as well as all gig economy workers.

Yet Uber is attempting to dodge the Supreme Court’s ruling, just as it attempts to dodge its responsibilities to its drivers, by trying to interpret the ruling so that it applies to only a tiny minority of its workforce. If Uber ignores the ruling, tens of thousands of workers will be cheated out of their rights, forcing low-paid and precarious workers to spend time and money that they can ill afford in order to litigate to recover withheld wages, in cases that they will likely win but will take years to conclude. The Government should not abandon working people to fight for their rights in the courts, so will the Minister take this opportunity to make it clear that the judgment applies to all Uber drivers, and that the company cannot continue to cheat its drivers out of their basic rights?

Even before the pandemic, one in 10 working adults—around 5 million—were found to be working in the gig economy, in fragile and insecure work, and with one-sided flexibility. It is bad for those workers, bad for the economy and, as we have seen from the pandemic, a disaster for public health. Will the Minister confirm that the principles of the judgment in the Uber case must apply not only to all Uber drivers, but to all those on similar arrangements across the country?

Let me say again that the Government cannot abrogate their responsibility by telling workers to fight for their basic protection through an employment tribunal system that barely functions following a decade of neglect. Working people need a Government who will stand behind them, so will the Minister commit now to legislate to end bogus self-employment and provide security to all gig economy workers?