Uber worker strike underlines the tensions in the gig economy

Press Office
Uber drivers to strike over pay and working conditions
Uber drivers to strike over pay and working conditions by Dan Gold }
Uber drivers to strike over pay and working conditions

Dr Michael Koch from Kent Business School explains why Uber drivers are going on strike and why this is a crucial moment for many in the gig economy.

‘As the gig economy is growing, the conflict between gig workers and their companies is intensifying. Uber drivers and other gig economy workers are now better organised, and they are stepping up their efforts to gain valuable employment rights, which would put them on par with regular employees. For most people, work in the gig economy is still not a viable long-term solution, as insecurity is high and wages are low.

‘The Uber strike shows that gig workers are increasingly unwilling to accept low pay and unsatisfactory working conditions. For companies such as Uber, however, this is a problem. The acquisition of employment rights and higher pay for drivers endanger their very business model, which is based on using low-paid drivers who are supposed to be self-employed. Uber is still not making a profit and might never make one.

‘Competition is very strong, and there is little room for Uber to grant concessions to their drivers. If Uber drivers in the UK are ultimately successful in gaining employment rights, the viability of Uber in this country might be in danger. This problem does not only affect Uber, but the gig economy in general. An employment tribunal already ruled that Uber drivers should be treated as workers and not self-employed.

‘If this decision is upheld by the Supreme Court, Uber is likely to be in greater difficulties. This would also be a strong signal for the gig economy as a whole, and in the long run, have major repercussions on the ability of ‘gig companies’ to sustain their business model.’

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