Hundreds of people today marched from the Transport for London offices in Southwark to Senate House at the University of London, protesting unfair conditions for zero-hour contracted and 'gig economy' workers – on the day Uber appeals against a ruling that its drivers should be granted the same conditions as full-time workers.
Uber is today appealing against a ruling in an October employment tribunal last year that its drivers qualify as employees entitled to basic workers rights' including a minimum wage, paid breaks and sick pay. The drivers, James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam, won the case but Uber is now appealing the decision.
The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) which spearheaded the campaign – and has also put pressure on other gig economy outfits like Deliveroo – arranged a march for today titled 'Precarious Labour Strikes Back', linking the fight of the gig economy workers with that of University of London staff who are also engaging in strike action.
Uber drivers James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam both spoke on the march, and the United Private Hire Drivers, a section of the IWGB, read a message outside TfL that said: "Today, we call upon the Mayor to clean up TfL and make it fit for purpose because today it is not.
"We call upon the Mayor to commit to ending sweated labour in the licensed private hire market. We call upon the Mayor to make worker rights a condition of license and he can do that by starting with Uber.
"If he does so, he can help us create a gig economy that works for the people and reconciles flexibility and fairness. If he does not take a stand then he and TfL send a signal that London is open for more of the same, brutal exploitation with or without Uber. Mayor Khan, you can. You can do the right thing."
The march proceeded to Senate House where University of London staff – outsourced security officers and receptionists – are on strike to demand pay increases that the union said the university had promised six years ago.
They were joined at Senate House by Green party co-leader Jonathan Bartley, who made clear his party's pledge to support both the university staff on strike and organised gig economy workers.
Bartley said: "What a time it is to be having this gathering together – workers being used as a pawn in the high-stakes game between Uber management and Transport for London.
"It's something we have to call out, it's something we have to fight. We have seen it with Brexit and what's happening over the treatment of EU nationals, being used as a pawn in a bigger game between big players who don't have the interests of ordinary working people at heart.
"We are seeing it between Uber and TfL and we have to stand four-square behind the workers who are being forgotten in this scandal."
"We know the management of Uber has shown complete disdain for workers, for their wellbeing, for their health, for their safety, and we've reached this juncture and things have to change.
"But not just Uber. Uber is not an isolated example, look around and we see all the banners here of the many different groups, the many people who are fighting different fights but the same battle together, and that's why we mustn't be divided, that's why we have to come together in places like this and stand in solidarity. And I'm pleased to pledge the Green Party's solidarity and support in your campaign."
Bartley was followed by a security worker at the University of London who, after chants directed at the university of 'shame on you!', urged unity between workers on zero-hour contracts, in-house staff, and gig economy workers like Uber drivers.
A teacher on a casual contract from King's College London said casualisation affects 66 percent of university teaching staff in Britain, and that while average pay for teachers has decreased by 15 percent after inflation over the last seven years, wages for bosses like vice chancellors and principals has gone up by the same percentage.
The demonstration comes less than a week after Transport for London ruled that Uber was not fit to operate in the city and was stripped of its license. New Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi apologised this week for the company and said that it 'got things wrong' – parallel to a PR drive from the company including a petition to withdraw the ruling, which has collected hundreds of thousands of signatures.
Following the apology from Uber CEO Khosrowshahi, London mayor Sadiq Khan said: "Even though there is a legal process in place, I have asked TfL to make themselves available to meet with him."
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