By Sergio Goncalves
LISBON (Reuters) -Mark MacGann, the whistleblower behind the so-called Uber Files, said on Wednesday that the ride-hailing company seemed to be taking steps toward improving its work culture, but that its business model was still “absolutely” unsustainable.
The Guardian and Le Monde newspapers reported in July that Uber Technologies Inc broke laws and secretly lobbied politicians as part of an aggressive drive to expand into new markets from 2013 to 2017.
MacGann, who led Uber’s lobbying efforts to win over governments, identified himself as the source who leaked the more than 124,000 company files.
MacGann said he decided to speak out because he believed Uber knowingly flouted laws and misled people about the benefits to drivers of the company’s gig-economy model.
Uber said in July, in response to the Guardian and Le Monde reports: “We have not and will not make excuses for past behaviour that is clearly not in line with our present values.”
MacGann said Uber’s current CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, and his executive team “have done a lot of good things, but they have so, so far to go.”
When asked for a comment, an Uber spokesman on Wednesday referred Reuters to a 2020 New York Times opinion piece by Khosrowshahi in which he said “our current employment system is outdated and unfair.”
Khosrowshahi had said gig workers would lose the flexibility they have today if they became employees and that rides would be more expensive. The CEO wrote that workers want both flexibility and benefits and added that new laws are required to help them.
“I’m proposing that gig economy companies be required to establish benefits funds which give workers cash that they can use for the benefits they want, like health insurance or paid time off,” Khosrowshahi wrote in the op-ed.
“My message to Uber is: ‘you’ve done well, (but) you can do it so much better (because) the current model is absolutely not sustainable,'” MacGann told a news conference during Europe’s largest tech conference, the Web Summit, in Lisbon.
He said Uber recently reiterated that the “core of its business model is independent contractors, since everybody wants to be self-employed, everybody wants flexibility.”
He said the facts, however, contradict this view as there are Uber drivers suing the company in various countries to “have a basic minimum of social protection such as sick pay.”
“Uber is pumping tens of millions of dollars in Europe, United States, other parts of the world fighting legislation,” he said.
(Reporting by Sergio Goncalves in LisbonAdditional reporting by Nivedita Balu and Ann Maria Shibu in Bengaluru; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Sherry Jacob-Phillips)