The London Cab Drivers Club (LCDC) Chairman has raised strong concerns with TfL over ‘Modern Slavery’ and Uber's compliance post Supreme Court decision.
In an open letter addressed to Helen Chapman, Transport for London (TfL) Director of Licensing, Regulation, and Charging, Grant Davis, LCDC Chairman, expressed serious concerns within the taxi and private hire trade.
Davis pointed out that TfL's Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement for the year 2021/22 did not include coverage of taxi and private hire services, raising questions about the lack of attention given to the issue.
Furthermore, Davis highlighted the absence of any mention or addressing of modern slavery in TfL's Taxi and Private Hire Driver Policy, seeking clarification as to why this aspect has been overlooked. Drawing attention to a recent Supreme Court statement in the Uber employment case, he stated that Uber drivers were deemed workers and were considered to be working whenever they had the Uber app switched on and were willing to accept assignments.
Davis argued that, to his knowledge, Uber is not paying their drivers the minimum wage during the periods when the app is active and the drivers are available for bookings. He questioned whether TfL had conducted any investigations to ensure that Uber was complying with the Supreme Court judgment.
The LCDC Chairman drew a comparison between supermarket checkout staff and Uber drivers, stating that supermarket workers are paid for their time between serving customers as they are at the beck and call of their employer. Davis asked Chapman to acknowledge if the Supreme Court's analogy for supermarket workers also applies to Uber drivers, where they should be paid the National Minimum Wage for the time the app is switched on and the driver is available for assignments.
Davis further argued that TfL's failure to enforce the Supreme Court decision on Uber's minimum wage payment not only raises concerns about potential modern slavery but also allows their competition to maintain artificially low private hire fares, negatively affecting licensed taxi drivers financially.
Expressing frustration, Davis called on TfL to impose the Supreme Court decision on Uber, emphasising that if TfL, as the regulator, fails to enforce the law, it raises concerns about whether the company can be considered "fit and proper" to hold a licence. He highlighted the need for consistent enforcement across the board to ensure fairness within the industry.
'I am writing to you as I wish to raise a modern slavery concern with TfL. I note that Transport for London's Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement 2021/22 does not cover taxi & private hire services. Additionally, I note that TfL's Taxi and Private Hire Driver Policy does not mention or address modern slavery within the taxi or private hire trades, may I ask why this is?
'The Supreme Court statement in the Uber employment case states:
“…. the respondents are drivers who are or were users of that app...following a preliminary hearing the Employment Tribunal found the Respondents [Uber drivers] were workers and they were working whenever they had ... (Uber's] app switched on. land]... were able and willing to accept assignments
These findings were upheld by the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal" (and the Supreme Court)."
'To my knowledge, Uber is still not paying their drivers the minimum wage whenever their drivers have the app switched on and they are willing to accept bookings (or assignments as the Supreme Court put it). Has TPH caried out any investigation to ensure that Uber is complying with the Supreme Court judgment?
'The comparison that I wish to raise with you is: if a person were to work as a cashier in a supermarket and start at; say 8am, they would be sitting at the checkout doing nothing until the customer wanted their shopping scanned. Therefore, it is quite clear that the supermarket checkout staff are paid for their time in between serving customers - this is because they are at the beck and call of their employer - this also means that on a quiet day, the supermarket checkout staff might have 10 minutes between customers (clearly, this 10 minutes of doing nothing is paid time).
'Do you agree that the supermarket worker analogy is exactly how the Supreme Court instructed Uber to pay their drivers? ie; the National Minimum Wage for all the time the app is switched on and the private hire driver is at the beck and call of Uber.
'I hear you ask what has this got to do with me and my members?
'I believe that by not complying with the Supreme Court judgment, and TfL as our regulator not imposing this clear Supreme Court decision on Uber, then you are allowing Uber to continue paying drivers below minimum wage (which raises modern slavery concerns) and you are allowing our competition to keep private hire fares artificially low, which is sucking trade out of the licensed taxi trade and which is having a negative financial impact on my members.
'You are asking my members to transition to a very expensive electric taxi while allowing our competitors to run riot.
'You may well say that Uber is a private company and therefore you have no jurisdiction to implement this, but I strongly disagree - if TfL (PH) is not going to enforce the law as the regulator, then who is?
'The whole term 'fit and proper' must apply across the board and any actions by individual companies not complying with a Supreme Court decision cannot, in my view, be considered as being fit and proper to hold a licence.'