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Uber to face ‘class action’ lawsuit in South Africa

LONDON, (The Southern African Times) – London based law firm Leigh Day and Johannesburg-based Mbuyisa Moleele Attorneys have announced plans to introduce a class action lawsuit against ride-sharing service Uber.

The firms said that the class action will be filed in the Johannesburg Labour Court against Uber BV and Uber SA on behalf of South African Uber drivers.

The claim is based on the drivers’ entitlement to rights as employees under South African legislation and will seek compensation for unpaid overtime and holiday pay.

This follows a decision by the UK Supreme Court on Friday (19 February) that Uber drivers should be legally classified as workers rather than independent contractors, and as such are entitled to similar benefits.

Leigh Day represented the UK Uber drivers in the case in which the lower courts, including the English Court of Appeal, also ruled in favour of the drivers, the firms said.

“South African legislation relating to employment status and rights – the Labour Relations Act  and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act – is very similar to UK employment law,” the firms said.

“Furthermore, Uber operates a similar system in South Africa, with drivers using an app, which the UK Supreme Court concluded resulted in drivers’ work being ‘tightly defined and controlled’ by Uber.”

In response to queries sent by SAT, an Uber spokesperson said that the vast majority of drivers who use the Uber app say they want to work independently.

The spokesperson continued, “we’ve already made significant changes to our app to ensure we support this, including through Partner Injury Protection, new safety features and access to quality and affordable private healthcare cover for drivers and their families, voluntarily.”

It added that the legal case assessed the Uber app as it was in 2016 and therefore does not take into account the substantial changes made to the business since then.

“Worker is a UK specific legal classification and a worker is not an employee. Employee status was not claimed in the litigation and so this ruling does not find the claimants to be employees,” the company said.

“Over the last few years we have made significant changes to our business and have been guided by drivers every step of the way. Many of the examples called out in the judgement are no longer relevant.

“For example, drivers now have full transparency over the price and destination of their trip, and since 2017 there has been no repercussion for rejecting multiple consecutive trips.”

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