Yesterday, once more, we managed to hold the line against Uber. Much is at stake in this battle and not just for minicab drivers because if Uber get their way it will be like an industrial relations dam bust. Employers everywhere will look to slip the ties of employment regulation, saddle their workers with an unfair share of the business risk and deny them the basic worker rights protections hard won over the past 150 years.
It has been an immense privilege to be the test claimants for this watershed case but a huge responsibility also. We’ve worked hard to build the best case possible with thousands of pages of evidence and continuous engagement to support our legal team. We don't want to let anyone down so we try to leave no stone unturned.
We now face yet another appeal from Uber and the stakes are greater still. Our lawyers reminded us yesterday, as the two test claimants, we must carry some personal exposure for financial & legal jeopardy. It is a sobering thought when you consider Uber is a $70 billion corporation with a ruthless reputation and will stop at nothing to get its way. At the end of the day, no union or other 3rd part entity can co-sign the legal complaint with us. No other entity can be party to the case and shield us from all liability. As test claimants that is our responsibility which we alone bear together as a duo.
That is why trust and team work is so important. To carry on a fight as momentous as this we need to act as a collective and in true solidarity for what is best for workers. We have always insisted that we would not allow this fight to be a proxy fight for the benefit of others with Uber drivers themselves made collateral damage. We will only ever fight for the better interests of minicab drivers in this fight against Uber. For instance, we went against conventional opinion, to oppose TfL’s decision not to re-license Uber. In an industry as chronically rotten as the UK private hire sector, there are few better alternatives and many much worse. Better then for workers to Uber kept in license, ensure the law is enforced and pressure them into bargaining to improve terms. Our first rule: do no harm to the cause and people we are fighting alongside and for.
With that in mind we are so very proud of the IWGB Union who have backed us. The IWGB is a small independent union that punches far above its weight. It’s a true disrupter.
John F Kennedy once said: ‘victory has 100 fathers but defeat is an orphan’. In all of the PR noise surrounding yesterday’s victory, it must not be overlooked that it was the IWGB alone who 100% backed this legal fight to see off Uber’s appeal. As the two test claimants, we alone were obliged to answer Uber’s appeal but we could never have resourced it personally. If the IWGB had not stepped in to back us we simply would have had to concede and the legal fate of the legions of Uber drivers who have joined our claim been badly undermined. Under the leadership of Dr. Jason Moyer-Lee, IWGB instructed the brilliant legal team of Bates Wells Braithwaite and Cloisters Chambers and set out a winning legal strategy for us. We are eternally grateful to Jason Galbraith-Marten QC, Sheryn Omeri, Paul Jennings and Rachel Mathieson for their great skill and commitment. For it was this legal team and this team alone that argued and won our victory.
In the IWGB we have found a union that shares our unstinting commitment to the welfare of Uber drivers, to preserving their independence in work at Uber while campaigning for improvement of terms and conditions. Our membership of private hire drivers at the IWGB is swelling and, for the first time, we minicab drivers are effectively organising to master our own destiny at work. Collectively, we are growing in strength and are no longer prepared to accept the trade exploitation and discrimination that has persisted for decades. Neither are we prepared to continue to accept a cruel regulatory regime that has taken our license fees and looked the other way to allow sweatshop conditions to take hold.
In becoming part of the IWGB, we feel confident that vulnerable workers will never be offered up as collateral damage for someone else’s battle. After all, IWGB's tag line and promise is 'putting workers first'. We couldn’t be more proud of our membership and association with the IWGB – it is a true home for independent workers and has risen to become the undoubted defacto trade union leader for the so called gig economy.
And now, as we move to on the next stage in this legal battle, we are strong and we are united under the IWGB banner.
James Farrar & Yaseen Aslam
November 11. 2017