I agree that people should not end up working for one employer for less than the living wage, under duress to say they are self employed. Uber made clear this is not what they do. I am also in favour of people being able to suit themselves when they work by opting for self employment, and having other jobs at the same time if they wish and if they can manage them. Many of the drivers like the flexibility they gain from their work, and they do other things as well.
I mainly get around central London by walking or by tube. Sometimes I am given a lift in a hired vehicle if I am going to a studio to provide a tv or radio interview. More of the production companies now offer their guests who take no fees a drive there and back, and may use a hired car. When this happens I often ask the driver to tell me what he thinks of the remuneration system and how it affects his life.
The drivers I have talked to so far are either very positive about the system, or neutral. I have not yet been driven by a strong critic of the scheme. One driver told me he had come to the UK as a migrant. He earned good money because he drove long hours. He had recently managed in his spare time to qualify as a technical computer specialist of some sort. He was now setting up his own computer service company and would flex his driving hours down as his business developed. I asked him why he had not left driving to work for a computer company with his new qualification. He said because that would be a pay cut, and because he wanted the flexibility to set up his own business whilst still having sufficient income.
Another older driver had a different approach. Instead of working long hours to make good money, he set himself a target each day of how much money he wanted to earn. On a good day he got home early, offering and needing less than a day’s work. On a bad day it took all day to hit target. I was with him on a bad day, largely because there was unusually high congestion stopping drivers completing enough jobs.
This issue needs some commonsense to resolve it. Of course no-one should be made to be self employed yet work for just one firm and end up below the living wage. But shouldn’t people who want to be self employed, want to do more than one thing, and want to be flexible about how many hours they work and how much they earn also have the right to do just that?