November 14, 2018 / 1:11 PM / a month ago

Taxi firm Addison Lee loses latest UK worker rights case

LONDON, Nov 14 (Reuters) - A group of British drivers at car service Addison Lee are workers, entitling them to rights such as the minimum wage, an employment appeal tribunal said on Wednesday, in the latest ruling to go against gig-economy companies.

In September last year, a British employment tribunal decided that several drivers were not self-employed, which gives them few entitlements in law, with the decision then appealed by Addison Lee.

Unions argue that the gig economy - where people often work for various firms at the same time without fixed contracts - is exploitative, whilst firms say drivers enjoy the flexibility and take home more than the minimum wage.

“It is clear that Addison Lee’s business model of providing a fleet of highly trained, regulated drivers is incompatible with their arguments that drivers are not workers who are entitled to workers’ fundamental rights,” said lawyer Liana Wood from law firm Leigh Day, which represents the drivers.

Addison Lee said it was disappointed by the verdict and would carefully review it.

“In common with most of the industry, the majority are self-employed, and with earnings at a record high, over 60 percent said they were likely or very likely to recommend working for Addison Lee in our most recent driver satisfaction survey,” said a spokesman.

In Britain, the self-employed are entitled to only basic protections such as health and safety but workers receive the minimum wage, paid holidays and rest breaks.

In one of the few cases to go against drivers, a union was arguing at the High Court on Wednesday that riders at food courier Deliveroo should be able to organise in a union as it seeks to overturn a previous decision and push for more rights.

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) wants to represent riders in the north London area of Camden, hoping to secure rights such as the minimum wage. A judicial review is being heard on Wednesday and Thursday.

“At stake in this case is not just the basic employment rights of Deliveroo riders, but their fundamental human rights to organise within a trade union and collectively bargain to improve their lot,” said IWGB General Secretary Jason Moyer-Lee.

The company criticised the union for trying to overturn an original decision made by an employment tribunal and said it was not what its riders want.

“Deliveroo has consistently argued that the self-employed should have access to greater protections, and that government should end the trade-off between flexibility and security,” said a spokesman. (Editing by Stephen Addison)

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