Uber ‘can afford labour protections’ – CEO

Uber's Dara Khoshrowshahi told investors that his company would continue to thrive even under the new rules

21 Jan 2022| News

In a piece for the Intercept, Lee Fang reports on Uber’s response to new EU regulations that would force the company to employ it’s drivers as employees. Uber CEO Dara Khoshrowshahi reportedly told investors concerned about new regulations that his company would continue to thrive even under the new rules.

Fang reports: “Speaking by video at a December 14 “fireside chat” hosted by the Swiss bank UBS, Khosrowshahi told investors that recent decisions in Spain and the United Kingdom have not drastically harmed the company.”

Over the last year, the UK and Spain have seen court cases and legislation that will compel ‘gig economy’ companies to provide more worker protections to drivers. In stark contrast to the messages coming from the US, Khosrowshahi continued: “There’s a lot of demand for our technology, our service, our brand, our safety, our reliability. So any model can work economically for us.”

As The Intercept report, the classification of Uber drivers and other ‘gig economy’ workers has become a hugely controversial issue in the States:

“The classification of gig economy drivers has become one of the most contentious modern labor industry issues in the U.S., where an estimated 59 million total gig workers labor without benefits, guaranteed hours, or the protection of a union. Uber has been a leading force in preserving this gig structure, pouring over $190 million into a ballot measure in California alone to reverse rules that granted most drivers employee status.”

In February of last year, the UK Supreme Court dismissed Uber’s appeal against a landmark employment tribunal ruling that its drivers should be classed as workers – meaning that it’s drivers would be entitled to the minimum wage,  time, paid holidays and access to a pension plan. In the wake of that judgement, Khosrowshahi wrote:

“Following last month’s UK Supreme Court ruling, we could have continued to dispute drivers’ rights to any of these protections in court. Instead, we have decided to turn the page. Beginning today, Uber drivers in the UK will be treated as workers.”

However, Uber has continued to oppose Spain’s ‘Rider Law’ which requires gig food delivery companies to classify drivers as employees.

Steve Smith, a spokesperson for the California Labor Federation, said in a statement to The Intercept.

“Dara Khosrowshahi’s acknowledgement that the company can – and has – adapted to treating workers as employees in other countries is a slap in the face to every single driver in the US that Uber continues to exploit. It boils down to pure greed of wealthy executives who will do anything in their power to lock workers out of having a share of the profits their labor creates.”