Union takes Bolt to court over pension rights

Union takes Bolt to court over pension rights
Credit: Fitzman Photography

GMB union is taking ride-hailing service Bolt to court in a bid to grant its drivers employment rights including pensions, while Uber has promised a Sharia compliant pension fund for its drivers by October.

First reported by the Financial Times, the union is initiating legal proceedings against Bolt arguing that its drivers should have the same rights of the ones working for Uber, which were granted these benefits after a Supreme Court decision in 2021.

At the time, a judge ruled that drivers should be classed as workers and not as independent third-party contractors, and are entitled to a guaranteed minimum wage, holiday pay and pensions.

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Seven months later, Uber announced it was partnering with Now Pensions to auto-enrol drivers into the master trust, and invited its competitors to create a cross-industry scheme.

GMB’s national officer Mick Rix said: “Bolt needs to wake up and accept its responsibility to its drivers. Other companies have done the right thing, why can’t Bolt? 

“Guaranteed hours, sick pay, pension contributions – these aren’t privileges to be bestowed when companies feel like it, they are the legal right of all UK workers."

In response, a spokesperson from Bolt said the company has an “open dialogue” with the GMB and "will continue to speak with them directly".

“We regularly engage with drivers across the UK who say they like our existing model because it gives them the opportunity to earn more. 

"There is huge demand across the sector and all operators will need to keep improving their offer to encourage drivers to use their platform. Because of this Bolt will be launching new driver features and campaigns which we know appeal to drivers soon.”

‘Law is entirely clear’

Speaking on June 15 at a Work and Pensions Committee hearing under its third stage of its inquiry into pension freedoms, looking into savings for later life, Uber’s regional general manager for Northern Europe Jamie Heywood said the “law is entirely clear” in respect to the taxi private hire industry.

He noted, however, that drivers “are quite confused and puzzled by some of the discrepancies they see in the way that they work”.

He quoted research from third-party sources which estimate there could be up to 80 per cent of drivers in London who are working with Uber and other apps.

“A driver that is on one trip with Uber will earn holiday pay and pension rights on that trip, [but] the next trip they pick up - which could be just two minutes later - may be with a competitor and they will have no comparable rights.”

He added that while 97,000 Uber drivers now have a workplace pension with Uber, there are “200,000 private taxi hire drivers that are not benefiting of that”.

Sharia option to come in October

Despite complying with the Supreme Court ruling and setting up a pension scheme for its workers, Uber faced legal action from the App Drivers & Couriers Union for failing to make Sharia-compliant pension arrangements for its Muslim workforce.