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SA Uber drivers join global push for worker rights -lawyers

Including compensation for unpaid overtime and holiday pay.
Image: Shutterstock

A group of South African Uber drivers are to go to court to seek rights including compensation for unpaid overtime and holiday pay, their lawyers said on Tuesday, hoping for a similar victory to that of British drivers this month.

In both Britain and South Africa, Uber drivers are treated as self-employed, affording them only minimal protections in law – a status the US ride-hailing company sought to maintain in its long-running UK legal battle.

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That ended last week when Britain’s Supreme Court ruled that a group of 25 drivers were entitled to worker rights such as the minimum wage.

While Uber said the decision did not apply to all its 600 000 drivers in the country, it was blow to the company’s business model and a significant victory in battles being fought on many fronts against the so-called gig economy.

While businesses say that the gig economy offers flexibility for workers, trade unions among others say it is exploitative.

In November, however, Uber saw off a challenge in its home market of California, where voters backed a ballot proposal that cemented app-based food delivery and ride-hail drivers’ status as independent contractors rather than employees.

The South African case could affect up to 20 000 drivers, British law firm Leigh Day and Johannesburg-based peer Mbuyisa Moleele Attorneys said in a statement. They did not specify when the case would be filed.

Richard Meeran of Leigh Day, which represented the British Uber drivers, said that case marked a final vindication for drivers who had been denied their statutory employment rights for too long.

“We hope that this class action in South Africa will enable South African Uber drivers to access those same rights,” he said.

Uber did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

The law firms pointed out that in South Africa Uber drivers often do not own their own cars and have to work long hours to make ends meet on their current wages.

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Why does a person work as an Uber driver if he wants to go on vacation? Why does he volunteer to act as an Uber driver by selling his time and vehicle, only to later change his mind? Nobody forced them to become Uber drivers. They were not threatened or forced into the position. They are free to exit the position at any time. They are free to work as normal taxi drivers at old-school taxi companies if they want the minimum wage.

The entrepreneur cannot exploit the worker in a free society because the worker has the right to resign, the right to create his own job and the right to work for someone else. It is only despots and tinpot dictators in socialist societies who exploit workers because the workers have no alternatives and no freedom of choice.

When a worker applies for a job, agrees to the terms and conditions, and then later uses his political power to extract further advantages from his employee, it is a form of expropriation of private property of the entrepreneur. Socialist labour laws are forms of extortion that enable unionised workers to plunder the rest of society. It infringes upon the rights of the consumer to strengthen the position of the worker.

….what if a Wimpy franchisee “demanded change” “…including compensation for unpaid overtime and holiday pay” from the franchisor

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