Drivers union urges Uber to stop “depriving them of an income” ahead of London licence appeal

A union for private hire drivers is calling for Uber to respect drivers and stop “depriving them of an income” ahead of next week’s London licence appeal showdown.

The call from GMB Union comes days before an appeal to have a new London operator’s licence granted. This follows the decision last year by Transport for London (TfL) not to renew Uber’s licence due to safety concerns.

The courts were set to hear Uber’s appeal earlier this summer before being adjourned to the later date due to the impact of COVID-19. Westminster Magistrates’ Court will allow Uber a whole day to open its case on Monday 14 September, while Transport for London (TfL) will take only 45 minutes.

Letters sent by TfL to Uber revealed why the capital‘s regulator refused Uber a licence to operate back in November 2019. As the regulator of taxi and private hire services in London, TfL is required to make a decision on Uber’s fitness and propriety before its current licence expires.

The letters outlined a series of failures from Uber to protect passengers and other road users, including:

  • A global phishing scam, involving manipulation of GPS signals to create fictitious journeys for which passengers are charged;

  • The use of fake insurance certificates, and Uber’s failure to check start and end dates for insurance;

  • Drivers with fraudulent private hire licences using the app to transport passengers;

  • Unlicensed vehicles used to transport passengers;

  • Drivers fraudulently replacing account profile pictures with photos of a different individual, to allow others to pick up passengers using their log-in details;

  • Drivers using online videos which demonstrated how to fake their locations at airports, to allow drivers to jump queues or find out destinations before beginning trips.

The letter also confirmed that Uber received 27,799 safety-related complaints between 1 December 2018 and 31 May 2019.

An Uber spokesperson released a statement soon after learning of its licence refusal saying: “We have fundamentally changed our business over the last 2 years, setting the standard for safety in the industry. TfL’s decision on our London licence is wrong and we will appeal. Uber will continue to operate as normal.”

Uber will also soon learn whether they must provide its drivers basic workers’ rights, which includes holiday pay and the minimum wage for the hours they work.

In a hearing at the Supreme Court which started on 21 July, Uber drivers argued that the ride-hailing giant should provide its drivers with paid holiday and ensure they are paid at least the minimum wage.

In October 2016, the Employment Tribunal ruled that Uber drivers are workers and entitled to workers’ rights. The ruling was upheld by the Employment Appeal Tribunal in November 2017 and the Court of Appeal in December 2018.

If the drivers succeed at the recent Supreme Court appeal hearing, the case will then return to the Employment Tribunal which will decide how much compensation drivers are entitled to.

Recently this summer, Uber threatened to pull out of the Californian market if they have to pay drivers as employees. A California judge extended the stay of Uber and Lyft on a temporary basis, thwarting the threatened last-minute shutdown of the platforms.

Steve Garelick, GMB London Region Organiser, said: “Just because a company fixes its failings it does not absolve it from legal remedy, just as any criminal apprehended after several years will have to face the judiciary.

“Uber continues in the same vain, to disconnect drivers for days on end following false accusations, depriving them of an income and leaving them in precarious financial circumstances.

“On this point you can be sure that Uber are pleased that behaviour towards drivers is not a licensing condition.”

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