A private hire group is looking to launch emergency legal action in a bid to force government to introduce COVID-19 safety standards for minicab operators and apps in the UK.
The United Private Hire Drivers (UPHD), a representative body for UK private hire drivers, has initiated the legal challenge against central and local government’s alleged failure to protect licensed private hire drivers and their passengers from COVID-19 infection.
The organisation has launched an emergency Crowdjustice campaign to raise the funds necessary to apply for a judicial review at the High Court as soon as possible.
The action comes after one UPHD member, who worked as a private hire driver, lost his life to COVID-19 another two have become seriously ill. Ayub Akthar passed away last week due to complications relating to COVID-19, whilst Abdurzak Hadi became seriously ill but is now recovering.
The UPHD claim Transport for London (TfL) and other licensing authorities have failed in their primary duty to protect passengers by not insisting upon separation distance requirements, personal protection equipment, detailed safety protocols and driver training.
In contrast, the Dutch authorities have introduced emergency regulations to control the risk of COVID-19 infection in cabs by enforcing a 1.5 metre separation, mandatory use of personal protection equipment, sanitation routines and limiting service to one passenger at a time.
The minicab representatives also highlight the private hire operators, who include Uber and Addison Lee, who have targeted NHS staff with free and discounted journeys during this time of pandemic. The UPHD suggests these promotions present significant mutual risk for passengers and drivers.
James Farrar, Chair of UPHD said: “In an industry rife with worker rights abuse, Uber cannot be trusted to self-regulate for the protection of drivers and passengers from COVID-19 infection. The government must act quickly to put appropriate controls in place and if they do not, we will take legal action. We are prepared to do whatever it takes to make sure no driver dies because of corporate greed and regulatory inaction.”
Yaseen Aslam, General Secretary of UPHD said: “With 94% of the workforce identified as BAME, discrimination is a factor in the failure of the industry to adequately protect workers and in the failure of the government to regulate to ensure they do.
“How can it be that the government believes it is too dangerous for barbers to work but that its perfectly safe for minicab drivers to do so without any protection?”
Simon Cox, Barrister, Doughty Street Chambers said: “Key workers and members of the public making necessary journeys need private hire drivers. The Health Secretary has made draconian regulations against shops and members of the public, to protect the right to life.
“But no regulations have been made against private hire operators like Uber.
“They operate without any laws requiring them to protect their passengers and drivers from COVID-19. The Government must urgently use its powers to regulate private hire operators.”
Image credit: UPHD