Steve Garelick has been a taxi driver for twenty six years. He’s branch secretary for his union, the GMB, which represents all professional drivers. He was involved in the 2016 campaign against Uber; fighting for the rights of lone workers and received a TUC award for his union activity.
Why are rights for lone workers important?
“Drivers and people in other precarious work, where they are working alone, are vulnerable. A company can almost dispense with your services at will.”
“Some people are losing homes because they’ve financially committed to buying a taxi or private hire vehicle and associated expenses. Some were sold a promise that there would be gold at the end of the rainbow and it’s really not there.”
What challenges can these workers face?
“There are many issues, not only the solitary nature of the work but the safety of the work. Drivers face verbal, racial and physical assault but are very much left to their own devices and very rarely report incidences to the police.”
“A big problem is non-payment of drivers, when a passenger has chosen not to pay or avoided payment.”
“Delivery workers can be in a position where they’re walking into strange locations and they may be attacked for the goods or money that they are carrying.”
What was the Uber case about?
“The Uber campaign was about gaining worker rights for the third sphere of workers. We have employed, self employed, but there was no in-between.”
“These workers appear to be lone workers operating independently but actually they have to follow specific instructions or rules that you would see in a normal workplace. Yet they are without the rights that other people would see.”
“We set out to enshrine those rights into law by taking Uber to tribunal.”
What were you asking for?
“We were seeking holiday and sick pay and the other things that workers who are traditionally employed in a fixed workplace would see.”
“I’ve led multiple campaigns over worker rights. We’ve had the Addison Lee case, which was similar to the Uber case, theoretically it’s a stronger case because the drivers use Addison Lee branded vehicles, but Addison Lee have now chosen to appeal.”
“What I find very interesting is that these companies show concern about worker rights but then have been prepared to appeal on the tribunal cases. This really shows how they feel about workers.”