SA law firm wants Uber to give drivers employment rights
Johannesburg - South African-based law firm preparing a class action against Uber has called on the ride-sharing giant to acknowledge that local drivers are legally entitled to employment rights.
The ride-sharing firm announced last week that more than 70 000 drivers in the UK would receive the minimum wage, pensions and holiday pay after the Supreme Court in England ruled against the company last month. The company said that the drivers would now receive the minimum wage after accepting a trip request.
Following Uber’s announcement, attorneys from Joburg-based law firm Mbuyisa Moleele Attorneys and London-based Leigh Day called on Uber South Africa to acknowledge that its local drivers were legally entitled to statutory employment rights.
Mbuyisa Moleele Attorneys and Leigh Day announced in February that they were preparing a class action to be filed in the Johannesburg Labour Court against Uber BV and Uber SA on behalf of South African Uber drivers. Leigh Day represented the UK Uber drivers in the Supreme Court case.
The partners said the claim was to be based on the drivers’ entitlement to rights as employees under South African legislation.
“Uber’s announcement that it would concede worker’s rights for their UK drivers is an important development for the company’s drivers in South Africa,” Zanele Mbuyisa, of Mbuyisa Moleele Attorneys, said on Friday.
The attorneys said that South African employment law, with regard to what constitutes employment as opposed to independent contractor status (the Labour Relations Act and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act), was similar to the UK employment law.
They added that some Uber drivers in South African earned less than the minimum wage which meant that Uber drivers in Joburg, Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth and East London worked long hours to make ends meet.
“The writing is on the wall and we call on the company to afford these rights — including compensation for unpaid overtime and holiday pay — to their drivers in SA. These drivers have suffered through the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic without the right to unemployment benefits, and consistently earn less than the minimum wage,” Mbuyisa said.
Richard Meeran of Leigh Day added that Uber’s argument that the company was simply an app was getting weaker by the day following Uber’s defeat in Supreme Court in England and other defeats in the courts of France, Canada and Switzerland.
“Uber’s concessions to UK drivers are an inevitable consequence of the Supreme Court judgment, and they were left with no choice but to treat them as workers. Quite simply, Uber behaves like an employer and needs to treat its drivers as employees. It’s the right thing to do,” Meeran said.
Mbuyisa Moleele Attorneys and Leigh Day estimated that there were between 12 000 to 20 000 drivers in South Africa using the Uber app. The drivers will be covered by the lawsuit, which is an opt-out class action.