Uber and Deliveroo chiefs face new grilling by MPs


Head of Commons business committee Rachel Reeves aims to question courier executives and their workers on the gig economy.

Uber and Deliveroo and other representatives of the “gig economy” face fresh inquiries by British MPs, which will involve their senior executives being grilled by a parliamentary committee over the companies’ working conditions, reports The Guardian.

Rachel Reeves, the new chair of the House of Commons business committee, told the Financial Times (£) one of her priorities was to look at the world of self-employment. The committee will scrutinise a recent report by Matthew Taylor into modern working practices that demanded better protections for self-employed workers.

However, Taylor, a former adviser to Tony Blair, disappointed trade unions by not demanding full employment rights for people who work for companies such as Uber, Deliveroo, Hermes, DPD and UK Mail. Many workers have complained of low pay, job insecurity and harsh treatment during sickness. The TUC estimates about 3 million people are in insecure work in Britain, including workers on zero-hours contracts.

Reeves said the business committee would call executives from Uber and Deliveroo and some of their workers, including those involved in court cases over their employment status.

Uber lost a case last year in an employment tribunal brought by two drivers who claimed they were not genuinely self-employed. In a damning verdict, the tribunal said the drivers should be guaranteed the minimum wage and other basic employment rights. The US cab-hailing firm is appealing against the ruling.

“I don’t really buy this idea that Deliveroo and Uber go down the self-employed model because it’s so great for the workers and that’s the only thing the workers want to do,” Reeves said. “There are clearly some big disadvantages to being self-employed in terms of missing out on certain rights.”

After questioning companies including Uber, Amazon, Hermes and Deliveroo, the work and pensions committee published a damning assessment of the gig economy in May, accusing it of forcing workers into bogus self-employment and free-riding on the welfare state. The inquiry was cut short when Theresa May called a snap election.

Reeves said the business committee had had its best moments in recent years when it held “the feet to the fire of some of our business tycoons” over their treatment of staff.

Retail billionaires Sir Philip Green, whose empire includes Topshop and the now-defunct BHS, and Mike Ashley, the founder of Sports Direct, appeared in front of the committee to face questions during the last parliament.

Reeves, the MP for Leeds West, also stressed she was “pro-business” and believed that companies could be a force for good by creating jobs and wealth for the country. “But I think, like any power, it [business] needs to be held to account, and be scrutinised.”

Another of her priorities will be to give business a voice during the Brexit negotiations, Reeves said. “I think business’ voice has been lost so far in the debate about what our exit from the European Union looks like.”

The committee is likely to investigate how Brexit will affect various sectors of the economy, and may focus on three or four sectors.

It will also look at the possibilities of Britain staying under the remit of Euratom, the European nuclear regulator. “I want us to explore further whether there really is a legal impediment for us staying in Euratom,” Reeves said, describing as “crazy” the idea of creating parallel regulatory structures.