IWGB takes Uber to court over racist facial recognition as Black Lives Matter UK backs the drivers’ strike and boycott on Wednesday 6 October

Tue, Oct 5, 2021, 6:09 PM
  • The Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) is taking Uber to court for discrimination over its use of a racist facial recognition algorithm that is five times more likely to cause the termination of darker skinned workers.
  • Facial recognition failure is just one of the reasons hundreds of Uber’s majority-BAME drivers and couriers have been terminated and lost their livelihoods without any due process or evidence of alleged wrongdoing.
  • On 6 October the IWGB is calling for a boycott of Uber in support of Uber drivers taking strike action and protesting outside Uber HQ in London from 11am.

Tuesday 5 October: On 6 October the IWGB is calling for a 24-hour boycott of Uber in support of drivers who will take strike action on that day and protest outside Uber HQ in Aldgate from 11am. Demands include increased earnings for drivers after a recent increase in the commission taken by Uber and a fair, transparent process for account terminations. Facial recognition failure is just one of the reasons hundreds of Uber’s majority-BAME drivers and couriers are terminated and lose their livelihoods without any due process or evidence of alleged wrongdoing.

The IWGB has also filed a claim for indirect racial discrimination on behalf of one of its members, whose account was terminated following a facial recognition error. 1 in 5 darker-skinned female faces and 1 in 20 darker-skinned men fail the algorithm which has profound ramifications for Uber’s workforce, which in London is 95% people of colour. Made possible by the right to protection from discrimination affirmed by the Supreme Court Ruling, which found that Uber drivers are workers, the case could force Uber to scrap the entire system in favour of a less intrusive alternative.

Tomorrow’s strike launches a campaign by Black Lives Matter UK and the IWGB to demand Uber drop its racist facial recognition algorithm, reinstate unfairly terminated drivers and couriers and introduce the fair terminations process called for last year by more than 70 MPs. Terminated drivers and couriers are available to speak about their experiences.

Nader Awaad, Uber driver and chair, United Private Hire Drivers (UPHD) branch of the IWGB, says: “This movement is gaining real momentum now because we know that we must stand up for our rights if we want them respected. The gig economy is growing faster than ever and must not be allowed to remain a place where the bosses keep all the profits and the workers bear all the costs. We didn’t make it through three lockdowns to settle for that world. We will not be treated as second class citizens. We deserve equality, fair pay and job security and we are prepared to fight for it.”

Black Lives Matter UK says: "The impact of Uber's facial recognition algorithm reflects a complete lack of care for black people and their livelihoods. The gig economy which already creates immense precarity for Black key workers is now further exacerbated by this software that prevents them from working at all, purely based on the colour of their skin. Racist practices such as these must come to an end."

Henry Chango Lopez, General Secretary of the IWGB, says: “Uber’s continued use of a facial recognition algorithm that is ineffective on people of colour is discriminatory. Hundreds of drivers and couriers who served through the pandemic have lost their jobs without any due process or evidence of wrongdoing and this reflects the larger culture at Uber which treats its majority-BAME workers as disposable. Uber must urgently scrap this racist algorithm and reinstate all the drivers it has unfairly terminated.”

Striking drivers are demanding an end to unfair terminations, the reinstatement of all unfairly terminated drivers, as well as a liveable wage for all drivers, through introducing a better rate per mile, 15% max commission, transparency of charges on customers, an end to fixed-rate trips, and a 50% surcharge on out of area trips.

The IWGB has represented over 200 drivers and couriers who have been unfairly terminated by Uber in the last year alone, on a range of grounds, including facial recognition failures, false customer complaints and more. The vast majority were terminated with no proper notice, investigation, right to representation or chance to appeal. As workers, Uber drivers are not legally protected from unfair dismissal.

For more information, contact:

Marienna Pope-Weidemann

Head of Communications and Media


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