Uber has told a British employment appeal tribunal its drivers were self-employed, not workers entitled to a range of benefits. As Matthew Larotonda reports, the case comes less than a week after the U.S. ride-hailing service heard it would lose its London licence.
Uber's problems in Britain just keep multiplying as company lawyers appeared at an appeals tribunal in a case separate from the recent announcement that they'd be stripped of their taxi license in London. (SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS CORRESPONDENT, TOM BERGIN, SAYING: "A potentially bigger problem that the company faces is around the status of its drivers. Last year a tribunal found that the drivers should be deemed to be employees, not independent contractors. Now if the courts uphold that decision, and Uber is challenging that at the moment, well then the whole business model of the company could be at risk." If Uber is forced to recognize UK drivers as employees it will mean they're entitled to benefits that would cut severely into profit margins. Uber says its following the same practice as other taxi companies. But the tech giant also has more direct control of a driver than the average London black cab, and already pays less. For many Uber drivers, the company's troubles seem like a lose-lose situation. Many feel taken advantage of, but the alternative is 40,000 drivers being out of work entirely. And it may have a domino effect. (SOUNDBITE) (English) REUTERS CORRESPONDENT, TOM BERGIN, SAYING: "It's difficult to overestimate London in Uber's overall European operation. The company has about a third of its European drivers here in the UK, or in London even, and its London operation could represent over half its European turnover we calculated, based on filings we've seen. The question is if it can't operate in London, can it operate in Europe at all?" Uber has already pulled back from China and eastern Europe and is facing regulatory challenges in other countries. Its global ambitions in peril on multiple fronts.