Top QC for Uber drivers says TfL and Sadiq Khan have the powers to place workers rights conditions 

The United Private Hire Drivers branch of the IWGB union is this morning (11 November) publishing a legal opinion from the top legal team who have defeated successive appeals from Uber against a 2016 ruling which guarantees Uber drivers the right to earn the minimum wage and holiday pay.

Jason Galbraith-Marten QC and Sheryn Omeri of Cloisters chambers in London authored an opinion to answer whether a ‘fit and proper’ assessment for public licensing can consider compliance with the law for firms like Uber, and whether licensing authorities like Transport for London have the capacity and obligation to impose conditions that such firms must obey the law before they can be granted a public licence.

Jason Galbraith-Marten QC and Sheryn Omeri wrote: 'It is our opinion that the ‘fit and proper person’ requirement for the issue of a private hire operator’s licence does require the licensing authority to take account of the question of whether the applicant for a licence has in the past failed, or will in the future fail, to observe relevant employment law rights of its private hire vehicle drivers.'

The team went on to warn that any failure on the part of Transport for London and the Mayor to consider Uber’s 'terrible' employment law record in its licensing decision could amount to a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Article 8 & 14 guarantees Uber drivers the right to respect of their private and family life as well as the right to freedom from discrimination.

The UPHD say this is particularly relevant as TfL presides over a taxi and private hire licensing system where private hire drivers who according to TfL are 94% BAME, have less protection from exploitation than black cab drivers who are 85% white British.

Jason Galbraith-Marten QC and Sheryn Omeri wrote: 'We consider it to be arguable that Convention law obliges TfL to take account of obedience to relevant employment law provisions by an applicant for a private hire operator’s licence.

'We consider this obligation to arise from the fact that a failure by TfL to do so, in circumstances where there are genuine concerns raised, could amount to a breach of Article 14 read together with Article 8.

'That is, TfL must ensure that the right to maintain relationships with others (through work) of private hire vehicle drivers is protected or secured by actively considering the issue of the protection of their employment rights.

'Failure to do so would result in their Article 8 rights having lesser protection than those of hackney carriage drivers, for example (the majority of whom we understand to be white British).'

The union went on to pen an opinion that suggests for years both Transport for London and the Mayor have incorrectly denied they have the necessary legal powers necessary to protect Uber drivers from exploitation.

'When the union asked both TfL and the Mayor to provide us a legal opinion to substantiate their denials both declined to do so. For this reason, the union commissioned its own review of the law,' the union added.

James Farrar, Chair of the United Private Hire Drivers branch of the IWGB union and co lead claimant in Aslam & Farrar v Uber said: “Despite our win against at the Employment Tribunal against Uber in 2016, justice has been denied while Uber pursues one hopeless appeal after another to buy time to corner the London market.

"It is devastating to now learn that the Mayor and Transport for London could have stepped in to protect us years ago but failed to do so.

"The Mayor must act now to correct this terrible mistake and follow the lead of the Mayor of New York who last year set worker rights compliance as a condition of license there. What’s the Mayor afraid of – a lawsuit from Uber?”

Yaseen Aslam, National General Secretary of United Private Hire Drivers branch of the IWGB union and co lead claimant in Aslam & Farrar v Uber said: “Sadiq Khan says he is on the side of precarious workers and today he will be asking other employers to pay their workers the London Living Wage.

"But during his term in office he has failed dismally in holding Uber to account for their brutal exploitation of minicab drivers licensed by Transport for London under his authority. It’s not too late for him to act now, he must impose conditions on Uber’s license upon renewal this month so Uber drivers too can benefit from the London Living Wage.”

Image credit: Taxipoint

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