BLACK cab drivers in London who belong to the unions Unite and GMB last week praised the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and Transport for London (TfL) for putting the safety of Londoners ahead of big corporate interests by deciding not to renew Uber’s licence to operate in London.
Commenting chair of London’s Unite black cab section Jim Kelly said: “The mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Transport for London have done the right thing in putting the safety of passengers and Londoners ahead of the big corporate interests of Uber.
“Dogged by controversy, Uber’s approach has been to exploit workers and bend the rules while trying to brush passenger safety concerns under the carpet.
“No one is above the law and today’s decision will be welcomed by London’s trusted professional black cab drivers. It signals that the mayor of London and Transport for London are not prepared to allow London to become the ‘wild west’ of the cab trade and put passengers at risk.
“In the coming weeks Uber will no doubt throw all its legal and corporate lobbying might to overturn this decision. We would urge the mayor of London and Transport for London to stand firm and continue to stand up for the safety of Londoners and the capital’s trusted cabbies.”
GMB said that the TfL decision was a major victory for drivers’ rights and for passenger safety. Last year the union won an employment tribunal case, which proved Uber’s drivers are employed by the firm, not self-employed as Uber had claimed. That means they should be entitled to holiday pay, a guaranteed minimum wage and safety protections, as well as other basic employment rights.
The £51 billion San Francisco transport giant has been controversial around the world for circumventing workers’ rights and pay minimums in many countries where it operates.
Uber’s initial five-year licence allowed them to operate a business of up to 40,000 cars in London. But unlike other firms, they refused to give drivers either basic employment rights or the full freedoms that come with genuine self-employment.
GMB, working with global corporate campaigners SumOfUs.org and the TUC, handed in a 100,000-strong petition last week to City Hall. It called for TfL to force Uber to respect workers’ rights and passenger safety or get out of London.
GMB found that a member working exclusively for Uber received just £5.03 per hour in August 2015 after costs and fees were taken into account.
That’s significantly below the national minimum wage. Uber also deducted sums from drivers’ pay, including when customers make complaints, and often without informing the drivers in advance.
When Uber’s licence came up for renewal earlier this year TfL extended it by only four months with a warning to the company to improve its practices. Last week TfL concluded that Uber had failed to use the four months to correct its failings.
There were many areas of serious concern, including its handling of allegations of sexual assault by its drivers against passengers.
Freedom of Information data obtained by The Sun last year showed that the Metropolitan Police investigated 32 drivers for rape or sexual assault of a passenger between May 2015 and May 2016.
In August, Metropolitan Police Inspector Neil Billany wrote to TfL about his concern that the company was failing to investigate properly allegations against its drivers.
He revealed that the company had continued to employ a driver after he was accused of sexual assault. According to Inspector Billany, the same driver went on to assault another female passenger before he was removed.
The letter said: “By not reporting to police promptly, Uber are allowing situations to develop that clearly affect the safety and security of the public.”
This month, TfL informed Uber that background checks on thousands of its drivers were invalid. The drivers were given 28 days to reapply for the procedure or risk losing their licence.
Uber has responded as Unite predicted — by launching an appeal against the decision and a propaganda war and petition against the decision, backed by the Evening Standard, which is currently edited by former Chancellor George Osborne. He is paid £650,000 a year by fund manager BlackRock, which has a stake in taxi app firm worth about £500 million.The National Union of Journalists’ ethics council said that the Evening Standard should note Osborne’s role at BlackRock alongside newspaper and online articles it publishes about Uber.