Hundreds of Uber drivers in Britain are to go on strike as part of an international protest against pay and conditions on the eve of the ride-hailing app’s stock market flotation.
Drivers in London, Birmingham, Nottingham and Glasgow plan to withhold their services between 7am and 4pm on Wednesday, with some expected to protest outside Uber’s offices.
They are joining action by drivers in US cities including Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, New York and Washington DC, as well as in other countries, including Brazil.
Uber is undergoing a flotation that will raise about $9bn (£6.9bn) in new funds and hand multi-million-dollar payouts to early investors, including the founder, Travis Kalanick, and the Amazon boss, Jeff Bezos.
Yaseen Aslam, the secretary of the Independent Workers of Great Britain union’s private hire drivers’ branch, said: “Since Uber arrived to the UK in 2012, it has progressively driven down pay and conditions in the minicab sector to the point where many drivers are now being pushed to work over 60 hours a week just to get by.
“Now, a handful of investors are expected to get filthy rich off the back of the exploitation of these drivers on poverty wages. We are protesting today demanding that the company pay drivers a decent wage and that government authorities tackle Uber’s chronic unlawful behaviour.”
Analysis by the union suggests Uber drivers in the UK earn an average £5 an hour, well below the legal minimum wage of £8.21 for over 25s. They can work as much as 30 hours a week before breaking even.
The union wants fares to be increased by £2 per mile, the commission paid by drivers to Uber to be cut from 23% to 15%, and recognition of “worker” employment status for drivers so they are guaranteed to be paid the minimum wage and to receive holiday pay and other benefits.
A recent Oxford University study co-authored with Uber staff found drivers earned £11 an hour before costs.
In December, judges dismissed Uber’s latest appeal against a landmark employment tribunal ruling that its drivers should be classed as workers. The company has said it plans to appeal to the supreme court
The company has made a number of improvements in benefits, including providing free insurance and telephone support for “qualifying drivers”. And more than 1 million drivers are set to share in a $300m payout relating to the flotation.
An Uber spokeswoman said: “Drivers are at the heart of our service – we can’t succeed without them – and thousands of people come into work at Uber every day focused on how to make their experience better, on and off the road. Whether it’s being able to track your earnings or stronger insurance protections, we’ll continue working to improve the experience for and with drivers.”
However, Uber’s own prospectus, recently filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, admits that being forced to reclassify drivers as employees or workers would “require us to fundamentally change our business model” and have a big impact on the firm’s finances.