The UK Supreme Court rules against collective bargaining rights in a blow to gig economy workers

Deliveroo drivers are not entitled to collective bargaining over pay and conditions, Britain’s top court has ruled, in a blow to gig economy campaigners and the unions that represent them.

The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) has been fighting through the courts since 2017 to classify Deliveroo delivery drivers as ‘workers’, with the right to unionize and bargain collectively for better conditions.

On Tuesday, the High Court upheld previous rulings that the thousands of British riders were independent, self-employed entrepreneurs and could not be classified as employees because they had the right to arrange for a replacement to carry out their duties if they did not or did not want to do so. not being able to.

The union said it is considering options to challenge the ruling under international law – after reaching Britain’s highest court. Any challenge would likely involve taking the case to the European Court of Human Rights, with a challenge brought against the British government rather than Deliveroo, lawyers said.

“The Supreme Court’s ruling comes as a disappointment after a years-long legal battle to secure the minimum employment rights of motorcyclists. As a union, we cannot accept that thousands of riders should have to work without important protections such as the right to collective bargaining, and we will continue to argue this case using all available options,” the IWGB said in a statement, adding that it will continue to signing up more gig economy couriers in an effort to hold companies accountable.

“Flexibility, including the option for account substitution, is not a reason to deprive employees of basic rights such as fair pay and collective bargaining rights. This dangerous false dichotomy between rights and flexibility is one that Deliveroo and other gig economy giants rely heavily on in their attempts to legitimize their exploitative business models,” the IWGB said.

Deliveroo said the outcome was “a positive verdict for Deliveroo riders, who value the flexibility that self-employment offers”, and that thousands of people continued to apply to work for the company every week.

It pointed to a deal with the GMB union that will see riders receive free insurance, health cover and union recognition without being recognized as employees or employees. The ruling leaves the employer free to choose which union he wants to recognize, without running the risk that he has not chosen the preferred organization of his employees.

Deliveroo said: “UK courts have repeatedly and at every level confirmed that Deliveroo riders are self-employed, and this now includes the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land.”

Yvonne Gallagher, partner at law firm Harbottle & Lewis, said the case was “a fundamentally important ruling for the gig economy, and not just for Deliveroo.

“By establishing that the substitution clause operates as evidence that passengers cannot be considered employees, the High Court ruling may prompt other gig economy companies to adopt Deliveroo’s employment approach – where this fits into their commercial fashion model.”

She said that in Britain “the use of substitution clauses in many cases means that gig workers will not pick up [basic employment rights such as the minimum wage and holiday pay]”.

Gallagher added that if the IWGB wanted to challenge the High Court’s ruling in international courts, it would have to file a claim with the European Court of Human Rights to argue that Britain has failed to fulfill its treaty obligations properly – it would therefore be ‘a claim against the government’.

“Such claims may succeed in forcing governments to change the law, but pushing for a widening of the definition of those eligible for labor rights seems rather far-fetched,” she said.

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