Uber strikes: Union president calls on Bristol City Council to support workers in dispute with Uber

Uber drivers in Bristol held a public demonstration in St Paul’s yesterday (December 14) as they took industrial action against their employer and Bristol City Council.

The App Drivers and Couriers Union (ADCU) organised the protests in a dispute over several issues including pay and Uber’s interpretation of when drivers’ working time starts and ends. For 24 hours, the union called for Bristol residents to boycott the Uber app when needing to travel.

Hundreds gathered outside Uber’s Greenlight Hub on Upper York Street as drivers voiced their concerns. Union president, Yaseen Aslam, spoke at the event - he is also the main claimant in the landmark Uber BV v Aslam supreme court case which ruled that drivers are to be recognised as workers with entitlements to the minimum wage and holiday pay to accrue on working time from login to log off.

Mr Aslam told Bristol World he believes Uber is still failing to do so by not recognising the space between the time of trip acceptance to drop off - resulting in drivers losing up to 50% on commissions. The company’s dynamic pricing algorithm - which adjusts rates based on a number of variables, such as time and distance of your route and traffic - has also raised concerns.

He said: “What is happening in Bristol is not unique. We have had strikes take place in cities across the country. It is to do with the recent changes Uber made to how they charge ‘smart prices’, as they call it. It has resulted in our drivers receiving a pay cut as fare prices are lower than before. We are asking for an increased price-to-milage rate of £2.50 per every mile a trip takes, 20p a minute and to scrap the new smart pricing system.

“Also, in 2021, the supreme court was clear in its ruling that drivers be classified as workers, a middle ground where they are self-employed but still entitled to some workers’ rights without being an employee. The court clarified that our working hours are from the time we log onto the app to the time we log off - Uber has interpreted that as working time being from the minute you accept a trip to the minute you complete the trip. The problem is it leaves drivers who are waiting between rides without pay.”

Bristol City Council is the licensing regulator for Uber to provide services within the area. Mr Aslam believes the authority could do more to help ADCU members.

The union boss confirmed further strikes may take place if an agreement is not found soon.The union boss confirmed further strikes may take place if an agreement is not found soon.
The union boss confirmed further strikes may take place if an agreement is not found soon.

He adds: “As the city’s regulator, they should be doing more to end this exploitation and abuse [of workers] by making sure companies are not allowed to flaunt laws. But there is nothing from the council, absolutely nothing. If Uber does not change [its conditions] then we have no other choice but to continue fighting and protesting.”