Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr have advised and continue to advise Uber B.V., a legal entity resident in the Netherlands; and Uber South Africa Technology Services (Pty) Ltd, a legal entity resident in South Africa, regarding Uber B.V.'s smartphone application ("the Uber App") that connects independent operators with riders in South Africa. Our employment team has been leading work for these clients regarding the status of partner-drivers and drivers in South Africa. This includes advising on whether partner-drivers and drivers may be found to be employees under South African employment law. We were successful in obtaining a ground-breaking judgment before the Labour Court that the affected partner-drivers and drivers are not employees of Uber SA. We have also advised on the partner-drivers’ and drivers’ endeavours to unionise and the organisation's strategy and response to unionisation as well as other employee-related issues in South Africa.
Seven drivers and their unions referred alleged unfair dismissal disputes to arbitration under the auspices of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), alleging that Uber SA was their employer. Uber SA disputed this claim in an important test case. In July 2017, the CCMA ruled in favour of the partner-drivers and drivers, finding that they were the employees of Uber SA. Uber SA made an application to the Labour Court, which reviewed and set aside the CCMA's ruling, finding that the affected partner-drivers and drivers were not employees of Uber SA. Drivers have since referred alleged unfair dismissal disputes against Netherlands-based Uber B.V., which we represented in disputes which examined the drivers’ relationship with Uber B.V. (as opposed to Uber SA). The status of Uber B.V.'s partner-drivers and drivers has received significant attention in the media globally and has been challenged in countries around the world. We were successful in defending the claim before the CCMA. The Labour Relations Act, 1995 was found not to apply and accordingly, the CCMA had no jurisdiction in relation to Uber B.V. Both this CCMA ruling and the judgment of the Labour Court are critical to Uber’s continued operation in South Africa