Drivers In Lagos Are Suing Uber For Employee Status

George, 35, protests with other commercial drivers with the app-based, ride-sharing company Uber against working conditions outside the company's office in Santa Monica, California June 24, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT TRANSPORT CIVIL UNREST) - RTR3VKJ9

In almost every city Uber launches in, it never takes their drivers too long to form unions, and/or get regulators on their side to make the case that Uber is an employer of labour and should act like one. What everyone keeps missing is that Uber’s existence is predicated on it not having drivers as employees.

That being said, two drivers in Lagos representing other drivers on the platform have started a class action suit arguing that they should receive employee benefits from Uber. According to the filed lawsuit (claimants = drivers; defendant = Uber):

“A declaration that the claimant and members of their class are employees of the defendant; that by virtue of the nature of the defendant’s control over the claimants and members of their class, they are not meant to be classified as independent contractors;

that the defendant is liable for the acts of the claimants and other members of their class while acting in the course of their employment with the defendant;

an order mandating the defendant to provide all relevant benefits including but not limited to health insurance, pensions and other benefits to the claimants and members of their class and a perpetual injunction restraining the defendant, its officers, from further denying liability for the claimants’ acts done in the course of their employment with the defendant.”

While it may seem as if Uber’s classification of drivers as independent contractors to avoid paying employee benefits, minimum wages or be liable for any extra expenses incurred by the drivers is unfair, employing all its drivers as staff will prove expensive even for a company as big as Uber. Basically these drivers (especially the ones in Africa) would cease to have jobs if Uber took drivers on on employees.

If Uber were forced to employ drivers, there would be fewer drivers over much fewer areas (and let’s face it, if it’s too expensive they would definitely not be in Africa), and be significantly more expensive for consumers. And the casual, non-professional drivers would not be able to work on the platform.

And for once, the Nigeria Labour Act is on Uber’s side. Section 91 of the act states that:

“”worker” means any person who has entered into or works under a contract with an employer […] but does not include […]

(d) representatives, agents and commercial travelers in so far as their work is carried on outside the permanent workplace of the employer’s establishment.”

Looks like the case might be dead on arrival, but this is Nigeria, so we can never be too sure. We watch anyway.


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