Uber loses case over drivers' paid holidays, minimum wage

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Uber has lost a bid to overturn a UK ruling that would allow drivers to get a minimum wage and holiday pay.

London’s Court of Appeal dismissed a challenge on Wednesday by the ride-hailing firm over a lower court ruling in favor of the drivers. It’s the third time Uber has been defeated in the British lawsuit, and it’s nearing the end of the UK appeal process, with only the Supreme Court remaining.

At stake is an issue at the centre of the burgeoning gig economy: the employment status of its participants. Uber Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi told reporters in October, ahead of the appeal court hearing, that the lawsuit covers a matter that’s "at the core of the service".

Drivers are their own boss, and their contract with the firm is essentially a licensing agreement to use the app, Uber’s lawyer Dinah Rose had argued during the hearing.

James Farrar, one of the drivers spearheading the suit, said they shouldn’t have to choose between employment rights and the flexibility that comes with the work. The drivers don’t claim to be "employees," a category that would’ve given them even more rights such as parental leave.

"This is the perfect early Christmas present for GMB’s Uber members, but this case is about the wider ‘gig economy’ too," Tim Roache, general secretary of the GMB union that helped bring the original case, said. "Employers are on notice that they can’t just run rough shod over working people to put more on the bottom line for shareholders."

It’s the latest in a series of British judgments in favour of employment rights. The UK’s top court ruled in June that Pimlico Plumbers should have treated a tradesman as a worker, giving him the right to vacation pay and to sue the company. In May, the UK car service Addison Lee lost an appeal in a case over drivers’ rights and in 2017 a London employment tribunal found a cycle courier working for CitySprint UK was a worker.

"We’re now at a hat trick of judgements against Uber, they keep appealing and keep losing," Roache said. "Uber should just accept the verdict and stop trying to find loopholes that deprive people of their hard-won rights and hard-earned pay."

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