Last week UPHD attended the Coventry town hall of meeting of Matthew Taylor's evidence road show as he prepares his report for the government on worker rights in the gig economy. During the session Taylor described some of the data he had already received from Uber and how all the platform employers would be sending out surveys to their workers. We immediately registered our objection to Uber having anything to do with either designing surveys, polling workers, collecting data or analysing the results. We made clear that UPHD, as the largest representative body for private hire drivers in the UK, had not been consulted on survey design and we were not aware of any other worker engagement. Taylor committed to a 'take away' to make the survey process transparent to drivers.
Uber has a dismal track record for honest public discourse and disclosure. The recent Employment Tribunal judgement noted that Uber worker contracts were an 'excellent illustration of.....armies of lawyers contriving documents in their clients interests which simply misrepresent the true rights and obligations on both sides'.
At a Work and Pensions Committee hearing this week Matthew Taylor admitted that Uber were sending 'their drivers' to the hearings in an effort to co-opt the voice of drivers. We witnessed this behaviour at the Coventry hearing last week.
Uber also have a record of trying to rig public consultation processes by deploying skewed customer and driver surveys, for example during the recent TfL private hire regulatory review, during the London Mayoral elections and in an effort to pressure New York Mayor de Blasio to back away from his proposal to cap Uber vehicle numbers.
Today we learn that Uber has begun the distribution of a fatally flawed survey to selected drivers. We understand that other 'platform' companies will also distribute the same flawed survey which can be viewed at this link. We particularly object to the following:
- the survey asks 'If you are self-employed, which, if any of these additional resources or rights would you be willing to give up your self employed status for?' The options offered include the national minimum wage, holiday pay and sick pay. The Employment Tribunal has confirmed that Uber drivers are self employed workers with all these rights so why would the Taylor Review ask drivers if they would be prepared to give up these benefits to maintain their existing status as self employed workers?
- the survey asks drivers what they think their employment status is, a legal question already settled by the Employment Tribunal and asking drivers to speculate on what is already settled undermines the Tribunal ruling.
- the survey asks drivers if they consider their work to be 'flexible' without definition. Yes it is true in one regard drivers have the flexibility to choose their hours but, as the Employment Tribunal judgement recently noted, the only real control Uber drivers have is to spend 'more hours behind the wheel'. For the 70% of Uber drivers earning below the minimum wage flexibility comes a distant second behind the need to earn a fair wage.
- the survey avoids gathering information on the excessive hours Uber drivers have to work to earn a living. Many Uber drivers work 35 hours before breaking even but this survey only offers the option of 'over 35 hours'.
- the survey asks two confusing questions on the issue of working conditions. The first asks to summarise satisfaction with working conditions overall without soliciting important detail such as working hours, facilities, safety & security, emergency support etc. The next question is essentially the same except this time the framing is artificially led to ask the driver to rate perceived positive aspects of the jobs such as 'ability to set your own hours', 'be your own boss' etc. In other words, this series of questions is designed to accentuate aspects positive to the employer while suppressing negative aspects of Uber working conditions which Frank Field compared to 'sweated labour of the Victorian era'.
- the poor security of the survey - it is an open, anonymous survey which makes it susceptible to management stuffing of results. We completed it twice!
James Farrar, UPHD co founder and successful Uber worker rights claimant said:
'It is outrageous that the Taylor review is effectively undermining the Employment Tribunal judgement by presenting drivers with a flawed hypothetical choice between their confirmed status as self employed workers and benefits such as the national minimum wage. There is no choice here, Uber drivers are legally entitled to both. If the direction of travel for the review is to remove these basic rights in return for the illusion of flexibility then it will represent a serious set back for worker rights. This flawed questionnaire should be recalled immediately and Mr Taylor must keep his word to provide more transparency on the review process.'
James Farrar, 07530 319206