Uber is seeking to overturn a landmark ruling ordering it to give drivers basic employee rights by claiming it is not part of the “gig economy” and the judges who found against it were “factually perverse”.
Written submissions seen by The Independent show that at Wednesday’s Employment Appeal Tribunal hearing, Uber will also exploit the precedent set by Stringfellows when it won a court case against one of its lap dancers.
The appeal comes as Uber also battles Transport for London (TfL) over the authority’s decision to strip it of its right to operate in London on the grounds it is “not fit and proper”.
The TfL dispute has led more than 760,000 people to sign a petition in Uber’s defence.
But after London Mayor Sadiq Khan spoke of Uber’s “army” of lawyers and “agressive threats” of court action, its new chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi promised the company would work with “humility and integrity”, and apologised “for the mistakes we’ve made”.
The submissions seen by The Independent, however, suggest that these acknowledged mistakes do not include Uber’s insistence it merely acts as the agent, not employer, of drivers, meaning it doesn’t have to provide basic employee rights like paid holidays and the minimum wage.
In seeking to overturn the employment tribunal ruling won by drivers James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam in October, Uber will accuse judges of failing to understand “basic” law, and instead engaging in “legally irrelevant” and unfair criticism.
In the skeleton argument submitted ahead of Wednesday’s hearing, lawyers for Uber insist that contrary to what the judges thought: “The driver is in no sense in an employment relationship.
“Rather, Uber acts as the driver’s agent, in referring passengers to him … for [which] it receives payment [for] each trip.”
The appeal also disputes “the suggestion that the present case is one of unequal bargaining power leading to unreal contracts”.
Uber, the lawyers insist, is not part of the much-criticised ‘gig economy’, whatever hundreds of news reports might have said.
“The Tribunal will be aware of the public, press and political attention recently attracted by concerns over the ‘gig economy’,” the appeal submission states. “Uber’s business model has often been held out as an example of this phenomenon.
“In fact the position of drivers is materially identical to the familiar and long-established…