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Labour's Bold Move Against Cross-Border Hiring: A missed opportunity for PHV driver worker rights?

Updated: Feb 7

James Farrar, the founder of Worker Info Exchange, has critically addressed Labour's recent strategy that could restrict the operations of major ride-hailing firms like Uber, Bolt, Veezu, and FREENOW.

The critique emerges amid proposals to limit 'out of area' private hire vehicle (PHV) activities, a practice where drivers obtain licences in one jurisdiction but operate in another, often exploiting looser regulatory frameworks.

The spotlight shone on the issue when Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester, unveiled Labour's commitment to curtail 'out of area' PHV operations during a BBC Radio Manchester phone-in. The initiative, backed by Louise Haigh, the shadow transport minister, targets the so-called 'Wolverhampton Problem', where a significant number of PHVs are registered outside Greater Manchester but ply their trade within the city, circumventing local regulatory and safety standards.

Labour's stance pivots towards establishing minimum licensing standards across the board to halt the abuse of cross-border hiring practices. This policy not only aims to bolster passenger safety but also seeks to ensure fair competition and operation within local transport ecosystems. It's a segment of a wider spectrum of transportation and environmental reforms Labour envisions, fostering a cleaner, safer, and more equitable taxi and private hire sector.

Cross-border hiring presents a thorny regulatory dilemma. It creates a landscape where drivers, registered in areas with lax regulations, operate in jurisdictions with stringent controls, undermining local drivers and complicating the enforcement of safety and operational norms. This not only poses unfair competition but also raises significant concerns over passenger safety and urban traffic management.

A Missed Focus on Worker Rights?

James Farrar's remarks point to a deeper issue: the need for a more holistic approach to reform. While Labour's policy might mitigate regulatory and safety challenges, Farrar questions the absence of a direct pledge to safeguard the employment rights of drivers and couriers within the gig economy. As a renowned advocate for gig workers' rights, Farrar emphasises the importance of addressing the broader implications of such policy shifts on the workforce.

His commentary highlights a critical oversight in the current debate—while regulatory reforms are essential, they should be complemented by measures that directly protect and enhance the rights and working conditions of drivers.

Farrar said: “Interesting move from Labour to hobble Uber, Bolt, Veezu and FREENOW to but they'll likely get just get licenses in all metro areas. Question is, rather than protect small operators, why isn't Labour pledging to protect worker rights of drivers and couriers?”

As Labour's policy proposal continues to stir discussions, the call for a balanced focus on both regulatory standards and workers' rights remains a pivotal aspect of the evolving narrative within the UK's transport and gig economy sectors.


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