Uber strikes deal with GMB union allowing 70,000 drivers to become members

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Uber has struck a landmark deal with GMB that will allow at least 70,000 drivers to join the trade union.

It is the first time a ride-hailing company in the UK has formally recognised a trade union and entered into a collective bargaining agreement, marking a huge shift from Uber’s position just a few years ago.

The move would give drivers a stronger voice within the company, Uber said in a statement on Wednesday night, while building on changes made earlier this year which guarantee workers benefits such as holiday pay and a pension scheme.

It is the latest climbdown for the Silicon Valley-based company, which lost a Supreme Court battle in 2016 after it sought to classify drivers as self-employed contractors rather than workers.

Under the deal announced on Wednesday, trade union representatives will have a presence in Uber's driver support hubs to help boost membership.

GMB and Uber leadership have agreed to meet quarterly to discuss driver issues and concerns, such as wages and benefits.

Mick Rix, a national officer for GMB, said: "This ground-breaking deal between GMB and Uber could be the first step to a fairer working life for millions of people. History has been made.

"When tech private hire companies and unions work together like this, everyone benefits - bringing dignified, secure employment back to the world of work.

"We now call on all other operators to follow suit."

Uber previously said that the Supreme Court ruling in 2016 had "provided a clearer path forward as to a model that gives drivers the rights of worker status while continuing to let them work flexibly".

Since then, the company has been challenged in courts around the world over the status of its drivers.

Last year, the top court in France recognised the right of an Uber driver to be considered an employee, while the European Union is considering new rules to protect gig economy workers.

Jamie Heywood, Uber's regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, acknowledged the company's increasing reliance on unions.

"Whilst Uber and GMB may not seem like obvious allies, we've always agreed that drivers must come first, and today we have struck this important deal to improve workers' protections," Mr Heywood said.

"This historic agreement means that Uber will be the first in the industry to ensure that its drivers also have full union representation."

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