When Unions and Employers Work Together – Bringing Dignified, Secure Employment Back to the World of Work.
By Martin Kerin
ONE of the biggest barriers to ending in-work poverty is the ever-growing phenomenon of bogus self-employment and the gig economy. For work to be the route out of poverty, it must be dignified, fulfilling and well-paid. In all too many cases, the gigification of the economy has fallen short and created a precariat of workers who survive from gig to gig. This has always been wrong, and has been cruelly exposed most recently by the pandemic.
If governments are unwilling to intervene (as the Cameron, May and Johnson governments have been), then the only recourse for the precariat is the trade union movement. Therefore, yesterday’s announcement that Uber has signed a recognition deal with the GMB Union is a major step towards gig workers receiving the rights that they should. This agreement follows the recent court action brought and won by the he App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU) on behalf of Uber drivers. This agreement is the first recognition deal between a union and a ride-hailing firm. This agreement builds on from the major deal for gig workers signed between the GMB and Hermes in 2019.
Of course, there’s a long, long way to go in both ending the precarious conditions of gig workers and in making these sorts of union recognition agreements the norm, rather than the exception. However, it shows what is possible when workers are prepared to stand together for better working conditions. Unions are a boon to society. As a trade union member myself, I know from personal experience the positive impact that unions can have. As a Thurrock resident, I saw how the refuse workers, supported by Unite the Union, took a stand to protect their own terms and conditions and won. As with the vast majority of Thurrock residents, they had my full support and backing.
Following the news yesterday, Mick Rix, national officer of the GMB, said: “This ground-breaking deal between GMB and Uber could be the first step to a fairer working life for millions of people…This agreement shows gig economy companies don’t have to be a wild west on the untamed frontier of employment rights. When tech private hire companies and unions work together like this, everyone benefits – bringing dignified, secure employment back to the world of work.
For me, the key message from the GMB is that when employers work with unions, everyone benefits. One of the key ways our country should change post-pandemic is that the ‘race to the bottom’ with employment terms and conditions must end. When employees enjoy decent terms and conditions, it is good for the individual worker, the employer and wider society. Hopefully, this agreement between Uber and the GMB will be the first of many.