South Africa – Uber set to face class action lawsuit as drivers demand employee rights

March 04, 2021

London-based law firm Leigh Day, known for its high profile cases against Uber and Deliveroo, announced that it is partnering with South African law firm Mbuyisa Moleele (MBM Law) to launch a class action lawsuit against Uber in South Africa.

The case will be on behalf of drivers who wish to be recognized as employees rather than independent contractors.

Leigh Day launched the landmark gig economy case against Uber in the UK, which recently resulted in a Supreme Court victory for drivers, meaning Uber must classify its drivers as workers rather than self-employed.

“Uber drivers in other parts of the world now have labor rights like paid vacation after Uber was beaten in court,” explained MBM Law. “Uber will only pay South African drivers if we take them to court. Drivers may be eligible for paid vacation and unpaid overtime. “

“The case will be on behalf of drivers who wish to be recognized as employees rather than independent contractors,” continued MBM Law. “Leigh Day is supporting South Africa-based law firm Mbuyisa Moleele, which will launch a similar class action lawsuit in SA and has asked local Uber drivers to join the lawsuit.”

According to Leigh Day, South African legislation on employment status and rights, the Labor Relations Act (LRA) and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) is very similar to UK labor law.

“In addition, Uber operates a similar system in South Africa where drivers use an app. The UK Supreme Court has concluded that Uber” defines and controls the work of drivers, “the law firm said.

The UK Supreme Court found that while the control system operated by Uber was in its commercial interest, it clearly placed drivers in a position of subordination and dependence on the company.

Uber South Africa operates in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth and East London and controlled an estimated 75% of the South African taxi market in 2018.

Leigh Day estimates that there are between 12,000 and 20,000 drivers using the Uber app in South Africa who are affected by the lawsuit. This is an opt-out class action lawsuit that has a small number of representative plaintiffs making claims from the broader class of Uber drivers.

Zanele Mbuyisa of Mbuyisa Moleele Attorneys said, “Uber’s argument that it’s just an app doesn’t contain water when it acts like an employer. The current model takes advantage of drivers, they are effective employees, but do not benefit from the associated protective measures. We call on workers to stand up for their rights and join the class action lawsuit against Uber. “

Richard Meeran of Leigh Day said: “The UK Supreme Court ruling is definitive affirmation for UK Uber drivers who have been denied legal employment rights for too long. We hope this class action lawsuit in South Africa gives South African Uber drivers access to the same rights. “

In a statement to Business Tech South Africa, Uber said the vast majority of drivers who use the Uber app say they want to work independently.

“We have already made significant changes to our app to ensure we support this, including through partner injury protection, new security features and voluntary access to high-quality, affordable private health insurance for drivers and their families,” said Uber.

“We are continuing to do as much as we can to improve drivers’ earnings potential, and we are taking advantage of innovative offers such as fuel rewards, vehicle maintenance and other special offers to help them,” continued the human cloud company. “At a time when we need more jobs, not fewer, we believe Uber and other platforms can be a bridge to sustainable economic recovery.”

“This is a testament to the appeal of the Uber business model, which gives drivers independent status and allows them to develop and expand their businesses according to their needs and schedules, as well as their business skills and plans, and to carry out all economic activities of their business Choice, ”explained Uber.

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