A WEXFORD man’s victory in the UK Supreme Court against the hailing app firm Uber is being heralded as “a nail in the coffin of the gig economy”.
James Farrar took Uber to court in order to force them to classify its drivers as workers rather than self-employed, third party contractors.
After a five-year battle through the courts, which included the Employment Appeal Tribune and the High Court, the Supreme Court ruled in Mr Farrar’s favour today, along with his colleagues.
The appeal brought by Uber was the company’s last possibility of reversing a legal decision found against them.
The Supreme Court is Britain's highest court, and since Brexit, has the final say on matters of litigation.
There are no further higher courts that Uber can appeal to, and it means that all Uber drivers in the UK are now entitled to the minimum wage along with other basic workers’ rights such as breaks, sick pay and holiday pay.
Delivering his judgment, Lord Leggatt said that the Supreme Court unanimously dismissed Uber’s appeal that it was an intermediary party between driver and customer.
According to the judgment a driver should be considered to be working for Uber not only when driving a passenger, but whenever logged in to the app.
James Farrar, who is from Enniscorthy and lives in Hampshire, originally won an employment tribunal against the ride hailing app giant in October 2016, along with fellow driver Yaseen Aslam.
Mr Farrar told James O’Brien on LBC radio that the incident which finally prompted him into action was an attack he suffered from a passenger.
“One March evening in 2015 I was assaulted. I thought, this's fine, it’s a digital app, so everything'll be tracked and traceable.
"But I found that Uber wouldn’t cooperate with the police; they wouldn’t identify who the assailant was...Uber had created this fiction that I was contracting directly with the customer and that it was merely a booking agent.”
This prompted Mr Farrar to inspect the contract Uber has with its drivers, and investigate exactly what duty of care Uber owed its employees.
His research uncovered a lack of responsibility that the company showed to its drivers.
Along with Mr Aslam he formed the App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU) with Yaseen Aslam as president and Mr Farrar as general secretary and took the company to the Employment Tribunal in the first instance.
On foot of the Supreme Court’s ruling today, Mr Farrar told the BBC: "This is a win-win-win for drivers, passengers and cities. It means Uber now has the correct economic incentives not to oversupply the market with too many vehicles and too many drivers."
The Supreme Court’s ruling, which is backdated, means that Uber is facing a hefty compensation bill.
The company was formed in San Franciso in 2010 by Canadain Garrett Camp and American entrepreneur Travis Kalanick. Between them they are worth some £7billion.
It is believed that the Supreme Court’s ruling will have wider consequences for the gig economy.
This sector of the economy, also known as the zero hours contract economy, is run on what used to be the musicians’ rule: no play, no pay.
Today it extends right across the economy of (usually) lower paid workers, ranging from delivery drivers to those engaged in the hospitality trade.