UK court backs plumber in new challenge to 'gig' economy

LONDON (Reuters) - The Court of Appeal in Britain has ruled in favour of a plumber claiming workers' rights from a firm that took him on as a contractor, in a decision hailed by unions as a victory for the self-employed in the so-called "gig" economy.

The decision comes three months after another tribunal ruled taxi app Uber should pay its drivers the minimum wage and holiday pay deals.

Gary Smith had worked as an "independent contractor" for London-based Pimlico Plumbers from 2005 until he suffered a heart attack in 2011.

Smith, who was paying tax on a self-employed basis, asked to reduce his number of working days per week, but the company refused and took back the liveried van he had hired for work.

Smith claimed unfair, or wrongful dismissal from an employment tribunal, which ruled in his favour - a decision Pimlico Plumbers appealed.

The latest decision rejects the firm's appeal, upholding the tribunal's ruling which found Smith be a "worker" and therefore entitled to basic employment rights such as holiday pay and the national minimum wage.

"This case, like the Uber case in October 2016, is yet another victory for the bogus self-employed who have been treated appallingly by their employer," said Maria Ludkin, legal director of the GMB union.

Charlie Mullins, founder of Pimlico Plumbers said the firm had already changed contracts with those who worked on a self-employed basis.

"Like our plumbing, now our contracts are watertight," he said.

(Reporting by Ritvik Carvalho; editing by Stephen Addison)