On Wednesday taxi-calling app Uber began offering 70,000 UK drivers an hourly minimum wage, holiday pay and pensions after years of legal battles.
But the drivers said the new deal was far from perfect, as they are only guaranteed the minimum pay from the moment they accept a job, not from the moment they log into the app to start work.
‘It is a step in the right direction, but we are not there yet’
“As with anything else, it’s a good step forward, but you have to read the fine print,” said Shafaq Ahmed, a 35-year-old Uber driver in the West Midlands who has been with the firm for nearly four years. . “It is definitely a positive step forward. Little by little we are obtaining more rights and [Wednesday’s decision] It feels a bit like a safety net being drawn under the trade. “
However, like many drivers who contacted The Guardian, Ahmed was eager to point out that the news was not what it seemed. The court ruled that minimum wage payment must start from the moment drivers log in, but Uber has told them this will start only when a ride is accepted and end when the passenger is dropped off, which does not take into account the wait time.
“The court ruling said one thing, Uber said something else,” he said. “It should be from the moment you log in. It’s like any other job – you get paid for your time behind your desk, whether there is work you can do there or not. “
Ahmed typically works six to nine hours a day, but the demand for travel has dropped due to Covid. Last week, he made just £ 7.32 in four hours. Ahmed said he would now consider between £ 50 and £ 60 a good day’s earnings, around half the pre-Covid level.
“Sometimes you have a good morning, but it’s a roll of the dice,” said Ahmed, who joined the App Drivers & Couriers Union and has become a representative to support the campaign for better wages and working conditions.
“Many drivers have woken up to good news, but many are skeptical. It is a step in the right direction, but we are not there yet. “
‘The devil is in the detail’
“We appreciate the news, without a doubt,” said Nader Awaad, who has been driving with Uber in London for almost two years. But as always, they say the devil is in the details. We were not consulted about this package, we had no idea what it was or how it would manifest. So we are cautious. “
Like Ahmed, the 53-year-old said that just changing pay for driving time, rather than waiting between jobs, wasn’t enough.
“The amount of hours you have to work is ridiculous,” he said. “You have to work 12-15 hours a day to do [decent pay]and six to eight hours just to cover general expenses. I met many drivers who sleep in their cars. For me, [when I joined] it was shocking. It was like [something from] Charles Dickens during the Victorian era “.
“It is not a life and the rewards for the driver are not as appropriate as they should be,” he added. “Uber gets a 25% cut, but all they offer is the software network; no cars, insurance, diesel or other expenses. “
But for Awaad, it wasn’t just about “pay and reward.” He said the ruling did not address many of the key issues drivers face.
“We also have other issues, such as health and safety and deactivation,” he said, adding that he has become the vice president of the United Private Hire Drivers Union to campaign against the issues. “We have had to deal with abusive behavior and racism, and we have been campaigning about it. That is very important to us. Additionally, Uber can deactivate drivers without due process. This is unacceptable.”
‘Uber he’s still taking the drivers for a ride ‘
Saif Ali, 63, said the ruling gave him and his fellow drivers hope; for your own company and for all gig economy workers. However, it has not followed Uber’s policy on coronavirus leave and sick pay; something that the court ruling does not address.
In late February, he was told that he was among the newly identified who needed to protect himself, meaning that he could no longer work. When he told Uber, the firm said he did not meet its criteria for receiving payment while protecting himself, so he has had no income since. Ali has survived with some savings and the support of her two children.
“I sent Uber the letter I received and they rejected the payment, saying I need to make at least 150 trips in the last eight weeks to [get paid to] shield, ”he said. “Due to circumstances [with fewer trips available], we can’t do that many jobs, so my application was rejected. “
“Uber is still taking drivers out for a spin,” he added.
‘It’s a constantly losing battle’
Hassan, an Uber driver in Essex who preferred not to give his last name, said the ruling didn’t mean much to him unless Uber agreed to roll back the new salary when the drivers started working for the company.
He’s one of many drivers now working with attorneys to force Uber to do this, but he’s also concerned about high attorney fees.
“It should be a simple form to fill out. It is a constantly losing battle,” he said.
During the pandemic, Hassan’s driving hours were cut by more than half, from 45 a week to about 20, and the frequency of trips within that time was also reduced. While he used to make around £ 850 a week, some shifts have been done by just £ 7 in four hours.
“I’m trying to do everything I can, just to cover expenses,” he said. “I feel sorry for the people who have mortgages, car finances, children and depend on Uber income. For the hours you work, you can end up well below minimum wage. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism