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Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Guido Fawkes, Uber Apologist

After last week’s judgment, which upheld the view that driver and rider matching service Uber must pay its drivers the minimum wage and make provision for sick pay and holiday pay, it was only a matter of time before the company’s apologists crawled out to protest that it was all terribly unfair, and that we should all “look over there” at the new and disruptive technology. It could never be a simple case of worker exploitation.
And there is no more effusive - one hesitates to say eloquent - defender of modern-day robber baron Travis Kalanick and his motley band of transatlantic highwaymen than the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines and his rabble at the Guido Fawkes blog, who have decided that it’s all Labour’s fault, telling ofLabour’s Nonsensical Plan To Enshrine Uber Ruling”. Enshrine? But then, Staines is allegedly an adherent of the Church of Rome.

The Great Guido scoffs “Labour are seeking to enshrine Friday’s hotly-contested ruling that Uber drivers are workers entitled to various benefits from the owners of the app”. It’s that shrine again. It is claimed that an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill, if passed, would mean “self-employed black cab drivers who use Hailo or Gett would become employees of their apps”. It’s only an app, right? Well, let’s have a look, shall we?
I refer the Fawkes rabble to the judgment made last Friday (see it HERE) and particularly Paragraph 92, which tells “it is not real to regard Uber as working ‘for’ the drivers and the only sensible interpretation is that the relationship is the other way around. Uber runs a transportation business. The drivers provide the skilled labour through which the organisation delivers its services and earns its profits”.

Among the facts cited in support are “[Uber London Limited] purports to be the drivers’ agent and its assertion of ‘sole and absolute discretion’ to accept or decline bookings”, “Uber interviews and recruits drivers”, “Uber controls the key information (in particular the passenger’s surname, contact details and intended destination) and excludes the driver from it”. Plus one fact which will cause the Fawkes folks a teensy problem.
The Great Guido tells at the end of his post “someone could be logged into Uber, Hailo, Gett and Deliveroo at the same time”. So riddle me this, Fawkes folks: how do you square that with “Uber requires drivers to accept trips and/or not to cancel trips, and enforces the requirement by logging off drivers who breach those requirements”. How does a driver log in to other services at the same time with that hanging over them?

And that’s before considering Uber’s imposition of terms on drivers - such as the type of vehicle they drive - as well as imposing routes on them, fixing the fare, using a rating system that is effectively a performance management and disciplinary tool, and reserving the power to amend drivers’ terms unilaterally. Yet here is the Fawkes rabble peddling the pretence that it’s nothing more than an app, and you can’t work for an app, right?

Wrong. Once again the Fawkes blog is being selective and misleading. Another fine mess.


pete c said...

Quite simple really.

If Uber were that much of a profound social service and all-round good thing, it would have been gifted to the public domain.

And not become a corporation valued at a squillion dollars.

But we can't be against apps, can we. Oh no, that's not allowed.

Anonymous said...

Did the App achieve more downloads than Guidos did?

Shut out bad business apps.

Where there is a will. There is a way.

Sven Ellis said...

Good piece, but this bit is wrong:
"How does a driver log in to other services at the same time with that hanging over them?"
You can be logged in to the apps but make yourself unavailable. What none of them want is to tell a passenger that a driver is three minutes away and then have the driver who's three minutes away decline the job. So a driver who takes a job from one app could make himself unavailable or offline on the other apps without logging out. (I think. That's certainly the case with the taxi apps).
The thing that I don't understand is why Addison Lee were never challenged. They do everything Uber do, yet also own the vehicles and forbid their drivers from working on other apps.