Cape Times

Uber looks at steering drivers on new road

- Adam Satariano

UBER Technologi­es said its UK drivers would face broad changes if required to be classified as employees with benefits, a sign the company is considerin­g alternativ­es to its labour model amid tighter scrutiny from regulators.

Andrew Byrne, the head of public policy for Uber in the UK, told a parliament­ary hearing last Tuesday that Uber would become more like a private-hire car service that exerts more control over when and where its drivers work.

The statement was a rare instance in which Uber said how it might adjust if a government implements new labour laws, a threat the company’s business is facing in cities around the world.

“It would change the nature of the relationsh­ip we would have with drivers,” he said, adding that classifyin­g drivers as employees would add “tens of millions” in additional costs, including national health insurance taxes, and paying for covering minimum pay, holidays, and maternity and paternity leave.

The start-up generated $1.75 billion (R22.45bn) in adjusted net revenue in the second quarter of this year, up 17 percent from the prior quarter. Uber narrowed losses by 9 percent to $645 million, based on financial results it provided.

The worker debate goes to the heart of Uber’s business model. The company has relied on a network of workers who log on through an app without much oversight from the company, arguing it shouldn’t have to classify drivers as workers because it’s a platform that connects drivers and riders.

Currently, as long as a driver has a private-hire driving licence and proof of insurance registered with Uber, they can log on to the app to pick up passengers. Byrne indicated that flexibilit­y would erode if drivers were classified as employees. –

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