“Tokyo Labor Relations Commission Recognizes Collective Bargaining Rights of Uber Eats Union”
On November 25, in a case where a trade union formed by Uber Eats delivery workers had filed for redress on the grounds that the company’s refusal to agree to collective bargaining was an unfair labour practice, the Tokyo Labor Relations Commission (TLRC) granted the union’s request and ordered the company to agree to collective bargaining. With the protection of gig workers who work on digital platforms such as Uber Eats on a one-off basis becoming a global issue, the right to collective bargaining, an important workers’ right, has now been recognized for the first time in Japan against a freelance trade union.
The TLRC’s order was as follows.
1 The Respondent, Uber Japan Inc., shall respond in good faith to the collective bargaining proposed by the Petitioner Uber Eats Union on October 8, 2019.
2. The Respondent, Uber Eats Japan Limited Liability Company, shall respond in good faith to the collective bargaining proposed by the Petitioning Union on November 25, 2019.
According to the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper on November 25, the TLRC’s basis for recognizing Uber Eats delivery staff as workers under the Trade Union Act was as follows.
1. Delivery personnel are secured as an essential labour force and incorporated into the company’s business organization
2. The company unilaterally and formally determines the content of contracts
3. The delivery fee paid by Uber to the delivery person is characterized as compensation for the provision of labour
The TLRC completely overturned the company’s claim that delivery workers are equal partners and do not constitute labour force, and that they are paid by restaurants, etc. The TLRC pointed out that the 134-page “Delivery Partner Guide” published by Uber Eats defines in detail how delivery workers should work, and that deliverers are indeed workers.
However, the company is considering petitioning for a review of the decision, and it is unclear whether or not it will immediately agree to collective bargaining.
According to the Freelance Survey conducted by Japan’s Cabinet Secretariat in February 2020, Japan’s domestic population of freelance workers is estimated at around 4.62 million. Freelancers encompass a wide range of workers, from the near-working poor to those who work second jobs in search of growth and satisfaction, as well as highly specialized professionals who earn annual incomes in excess of 10 million yen. However, 40.4% of freelancers deal with only one company, and many of them seem to be so-called “freelancers in name only” who provide labour.
On June 6 this year, private drivers who undertake home delivery of packages for the major online retailer Amazon formed a trade union, the Amazon Delivery Workers Union.
Although the delivery workers do not have direct outsourcing contracts with Amazon, they receive orders and directions on how to work through Amazon’s AI and other means, and they are seeking collective bargaining on the grounds that Amazon is responsible for their employer.
In addition, in recent years, freelancer unions such as Yamaha Music Class instructors, Yamaha English Conversation Class instructors, and Yoggy yoga instructors have become more prominent.
We hope that the decision of the Tokyo Labor Relations Commission on the Uber Eats Union’s petition for redress will contribute significantly to the protection of the rights of freelancers placed in a precarious position.