Private hire workers’ rights claimants have warned the right to unionise the gig economy is at stake in their Supreme Court showdown with Uber starting today.
As the App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU) prepares for the final showdown in a 5-year long battle for worker rights for Uber drivers, the union claims the stakes could not be higher.
In a letter from the Certification Office this month, the regulator has warned the ADCU that it will have its trade union listing revoked if Uber wins at the Supreme Court. This is because the law states that a union “must be wholly or mainly of workers”. Should Uber win at the Supreme Court, Uber drivers would effectively be stripped of the right to organise.
Yaseen Aslam, President of ADCU and lead claimant in Aslam v Uber said: “This is our final showdown with Uber but the stakes could not be higher for everyone. If Uber wins, there will be an unseemly rush by greedy employers to collapse employment as we know it and Uber-ize the entire economy.
“Uber drivers and other gig economy workers would be robbed of the right to unionise. I trust we will prevail but the government and Uber should never have let it come to this.”
In a hearing at the Supreme Court starting today, and expected to last two days, ride-hailing firm Uber will learn whether they must provide its drivers basic workers’ rights which includes holiday pay and the minimum wage for the hours they work.
Legal action is being brought by Uber drivers, represented by law firm Leigh Day, who argue that Uber should provide its drivers with paid holiday and ensure they are paid at least the minimum wage.
In October 2016, the Employment Tribunal ruled that Uber drivers are workers and entitled to workers’ rights.
The ruling was upheld by the Employment Appeal Tribunal in November 2017 and the Court of Appeal in December 2018.
If the drivers succeed at the Supreme Court, the case will then return to the Employment Tribunal which will decide how much compensation drivers are entitled to. Leigh Day believes tens of thousands of Uber drivers could be entitled to an average of £12,000 each in compensation.
Leigh Day were first enlisted by trade union GMB to work the case on behalf of Uber drivers.
Credible Markets has added a new key research reports covering Gig Economy Industry market. The study aims to provide global investors with a game-changing decision making tool covering key fundamentals of the Gig Economy Industry market. The research report will include total global revenues in the market with historical analysis, key figures including total revenues, total sales, key products, instrumental drivers, and challenges. The report data is derived from extensive primary and secondary information sources with a reliable in-depth overview of the Gig Economy Industry market. The research report relies on global governing bodies as primary sources of data, with independent analysis of the forecast, and objective estimations of the growth.
The Gig Economy Industry research report will also study market share for major stakeholders in their global capacity as transformers of the global scale. This qualitative and quantitative analysis will include key product offerings, key differentiators, revenue share, market size, market status, and strategies. The report will also cover key agreements, collaborations, and global partnership soon to change dynamics of the market on a global scale.
In Chapter 5 and 14.2, on the basis of applications, the Gig Economy market from 2015 to 2025 covers:
Traffic Electronic Accommodation Food and Beverage Tourism Education Others
Gig Economy Industry Market: Regional analysis includes:
⇨ Asia-Pacific (Vietnam, China, Malaysia, Japan, Philippines, Korea, Thailand, India, Indonesia, and Australia) ⇨ Europe (Turkey, Germany, Russia UK, Italy, France, etc.) ⇨ North America (the United States, Mexico, and Canada.) ⇨ South America (Brazil etc.) ⇨ the Middle East and Africa (GCC Countries and Egypt.)
➊ Major trends and growth projections by region and country ➋ Key winning strategies followed by the competitors ➌ Who are the key competitors in this industry? ➍ What shall be the potential of this industry over the forecast tenure? ➎ What are the factors propelling the demand for the Gig Economy Industry? ➏ What are the opportunities that shall aid in significant proliferation of the market growth? ➐ What are the regional and country wise regulations that shall either hamper or boost the demand for Gig Economy Industry? ➑ How has the covid-19 impacted the growth of the market? ➒ Has the supply chain disruption caused changes in the entire value chain?
The report also covers, the trade scenario,Porter’s Analysis, PESTLE analysis, value chain analysis, company market share, segmental analysis.
Grocery delivery company Instacart said on Thursday it would pay $25 to its over half-a-million gig workers if they chose to take time off to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The company, which has been lobbying government agencies for its delivery workers to get early access to vaccines, said eligible part-time employees such as in-store shoppers will also be offered the stipend starting February 1.
Gig workers are independent contractors who perform on-demand services, including delivering groceries. Instacart is not mandating its workers to get vaccinated.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people over 75 and essential workers are scheduled to receive the vaccine in a later phase, after healthcare workers and nursing home residents.
Dollar General Corp. said on Wednesday it will offer frontline employees four hours worth of pay after they get the vaccine, while Walmart Inc. has agreements with U.S. states to administer the vaccine to its employees should they choose to receive it once they are eligible.
Instacart’s gig economy based workforce, who are not given health insurance and offered limited sick pay, has grown 150% over the last year as its business boomed from people turning more to online shopping during the health crisis.
Reuters reported in November that Instacart had picked Goldman Sachs to lead preparations for its IPO, which could come this year and value it at around $30 billion.
(Reporting by in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri)
Top Photo: Instacart delivery person; photo supplied by Instacart.
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Christopher Harley was shocked when he got regular unemployment benefits.
After all, he was a gig worker when the pandemic hit Oregon in early 2020, and no company had considered him their employee for many years. He drove passengers for Uber and Lyft, delivered meals for DoorDash and Grubhub, and dropped off groceries for Instacart and Amazon Flex. He bounced between those apps, cycling through numerous travelers, restaurants, grocery stores and apartment buildings each day.
“My doctor immediately said you shouldn’t be doing this type of work,” said Harley, 53. He had suffered through pneumonia before and was scared of bringing the coronavirus home to his family in Portland.
So as the economy shut down in March, Harley was relieved to hear help was on the way.
The kind of help he got, however, raises fundamental questions about how businesses operating in Oregon are taxed — and whether gig economy companies should be required to pay into the state’s employment safety net.
The federal CARES Act created a new class of unemployment benefits for gig workers. Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, or PUA, covered workers who usually don’t qualify for jobless benefits because they’re considered independent contractors, not employees.
“It pointed directly to the work that I was doing,” Harley said. “It was me.”
The Oregon Employment Department disagreed.
In June, the agency began paying Harley — not the federal PUA he expected, but regular state benefits instead.
In doing so, it paid him from a state trust fund that about 145,000 employers in Oregon contribute to through payroll taxes. The fund pays for benefits when employees get laid off. But gig companies such as Uber and Lyft don’t pay unemployment taxes for drivers and delivery people, who they consider independent contractors.
“To this day, it’s still not clear to me why that decision was made,” Harley said, “but it protected myself and my family the last nine months.”
Harley is not alone.
Court documents and interviews show the Oregon Employment Department paid many gig workers traditional benefits from the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund. People who drove enough hours for Uber and Lyft received benefits normally reserved for laid-off employees, as did many drivers with income from Grubhub, Instacart and DoorDash. Some gig drivers ferrying groceries and packages for Amazon Flex got regular benefits too.
The benefits went out, but payroll taxes hadn’t gone in.
Uber is a large company, flirting with a stock-market value of $100 billion. Meanwhile, many small businesses struggling to survive the pandemic, including restaurants and gyms, have seen their unemployment taxes jump.
‘All the claimants are deemed employees’
Shortly after Christopher Harley received his first payment in June, a memo went out at the Oregon Employment Department.
A manager had an update from the agency’s tax unit. Tax unit employees had the laborious task of determining which claimants were independent contractors eligible for PUA and which were employees who could get regular benefits. So the tax unit was contacting gig employers one claim at a time — a painfully slow process that contributed to an immense payment backlog.
The unit was swamped. Leaders decided to streamline.
“Tax has made a decision to stop conducting interviews with the following companies,” manager Kristine Wardlow wrote to adjudicators on June 26, 2020, “all the claimants are deemed employees and you just need to obtain POE [proof of earnings] and process the claim.”
Then in bold, capital letters, she listed the biggest names in the gig economy:
AMAZON FLEX and or AMAZON.COM”
The June 26 email later became public in court documents filed in a class action lawsuit against the Employment Department and its acting director.
The documents included excerpts of a deposition recorded the following October with Lindsi Leahy, the head of the department’s unemployment insurance division. She confirmed that, prior to June, the tax unit had tried to contact Uber or Lyft every single time a driver filed for PUA.
In the lawsuit, petitioners represented by the Oregon Law Center focused on payment delays. They criticized the Employment Department for conducting time-consuming, individual interviews with companies such as Uber and Lyft when unemployment had skyrocketed.
“OED did not issue a global decision about how to treat these employers’ payments to gig workers until June 26, three and a half months after the COVID-19 emergency began,” the lawyers wrote in one motion.
The Oregon Employment Department would not confirm to OPB whether it considers gig workers such as Uber and Lyft drivers to be employees rather than independent contractors. It declined to elaborate on the court filings themselves, citing pending litigation. It also denied a public records request from OPB, citing a law that protects employer privacy.
But there is further evidence in the court documents themselves.
In a November declaration, David Gerstenfeld, the acting head of the Employment Department, confirmed that the agency had made a global decision on how to treat payments to gig workers from companies including Uber and Lyft.
The petitioners’ motion, Gerstenfeld wrote, “correctly narrates how OED innovated to streamline its process for certain ‘gig workers.’”
Some ride-hailing drivers who started getting paid PUA were later surprised when the Employment Department switched them to regular benefits.
And some drivers received regular unemployment benefits even before that memo went out last June.
Employee or independent contractor? It matters
Emilie Wyqued was working full-time for Uber and Lyft when the pandemic hit. She counts herself lucky. By the end of April, the state began paying her regular unemployment benefits, even though she hadn’t worked a W-2 job in years. Wyqued said she spoke with a worker in the Employment Department’s tax unit.
“She actually called me and said they’re trying to process as many drivers as possible as employees,” Wyqued said. “And put them on regular unemployment.”
The Oregon Employment Department relies on a definition in state law to determine whether a worker is an independent contractor or an employee. The law outlines several tests for independent contractors. It asks whether they truly control how their work is performed and whether they have an independently established business.
By treating many gig workers as employees, the Employment Department is in line with states around the country who have confronted Uber and Lyft with a growing number of fines, laws and lawsuits.
In Oregon, these gig companies would owe far less in unemployment taxes. The state has a small fraction of the ride-hailing drivers that California does.
Still, some Oregon drivers wonder whether the state is preparing to crack down on Uber and Lyft.
Corinna Spencer-Scheurich, director of the Northwest Workers’ Justice Project, doesn’t know the answer. But she doesn’t discount the possibility.
“As soon as they pay out regular unemployment benefits out to misclassified workers, that starts the ball rolling,” she said. “Then it becomes an enforcement issue.”
The Employment Department can audit and bill companies believed to be misclassifying employees. It can charge penalties and interest if those companies don’t pay.
Oregon has paid out more than $2 billion in regular benefits during the pandemic, leaving about $3.8 billion in its trust fund at the start of this year. Employment Department officials say Oregon is in far better shape than many other states, some of whom have had to borrow money to prop up their trust funds.
However, more than 85% of employers who pay unemployment taxes in Oregon will see their rates increase in 2021. Because of the formula used to replenish the fund, businesses that suffered the greatest layoffs, such as restaurants and gyms, bear some of the biggest tax increases.
Harley, the gig worker who worried about bringing the pandemic home, has now joined the ranks of the long-term unemployed. He exhausted his regular unemployment benefits and the first round of a federal extension program. He’s been looking for other work for the last nine months, with no luck.
Wyqued also exhausted her regular unemployment benefits and moved onto an extension program. Driving passengers during the pandemic still feels too dangerous.
As 2020 came to a close, Congress and President Donald Trump agreed to extend federal benefit programs into March. But Pandemic Unemployment Assistance was designed to be temporary. The question is whether the Oregon Employment Department’s decision to treat many gig workers as employees is permanent — and what that means for the future of gig companies, the unemployment insurance trust fund and the many Oregonians who rely on government aid when they lose their jobs.