Updated: Apr 22
Taxi driver representatives have released an open letter accusing Transport for London (TfL) of a ‘failure to properly regulate’ and called for fresh ‘sanctions’ against minicab operators Uber.
The letter from United Trade Action Group (UTAG) follows a fresh digital rights ruling where the Court of Appeals in Amsterdam found in favour of workers and against Uber and Ola Cabs.
Earlier this month Worker Info Exchange (WIE) brought the cases in support of members of the App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU) in Great Britain and a driver based in Portugal.
The cases were brought under the GDPR which guarantees everyone the right to demand access to their personal data processed by any organisation and to receive meaningful information about the processing of such data. In addition, the GDPR gives everyone certain protections from automated decision making where there are significant negative consequences.
The first case involved four drivers who were found to be effectively ‘robo-fired’ by Uber without recourse. The second case involved the denial of access to personal data upon requests made to Uber by six drivers. The third case involved the denial of access to personal data upon requests made to Ola Cabs by three drivers.
In the UTAG letter signed by Directors Angela Clarkson and Trevor Merralls, it says: “Following the judgements in Amsterdam’s Court of Appeal in the “Robo-Firing Case” it is patently clear that Transport for London are, yet again, failing to properly and robustly regulate Uber London Limited.”
The letter goes on to add: “Transport for London will be aware that Uber has a number of conditions attached to their current licence. One such condition relates to the reporting of breaches.”
After detailing two of the conditions placed on Uber when it regained its operator's licence in the capital, the letter then asks TfL’s Director of Legal, whom the letter was addressed to, whether a review was being conducted by the regulators as a result of the court case.
The UTAG letter said: “Please confirm that you are currently reviewing Uber's fit and proper status to hold a PHV Operator's licence. This review is once again necessary because Uber is breaching the conditions imposed under their current PHV licence, which were previously put in place due to their serious and repeated breaches that endangered passengers and other road users. Once again, this behaviour shows a disregard for imposed conditions, is anti-competitive and interferes with worker's rights.
“There is clear evidence of performance profiling, indicating that Uber workers are employees but are still denied full employment protections across Europe (logged on time), including protection from unfair dismissal. We urge that TfL investigate how Uber is treating their workers following the Supreme Court decision in 2021 and whether they are failing to fully recognise this judgment to provide legal rights to those they employ.
“This behaviour is unacceptable for a fit and proper operator.”
Finally the letter, which was shared to members and to followers on social media, asked for ‘forceful and immediate action’ from TfL. The letter concluded: “It is important to note that compliance with data and employment laws is not just a legal obligation but also a moral and ethical one and goes towards a company's overall proprietary to be licensed.
“Denying workers employment protections is exploitative and undermines the dignity of work. As a company that operates in multiple countries and jurisdictions, Uber has a responsibility to ensure that they operate in a manner that upholds the values of fairness, justice, and respect for the law.
“A weak regulator that fails to enforce data and employment laws and allow anti-competitive practices to go unchecked undermines the integrity of the entire marketplace and erodes confidence in the regulatory system. If Uber is allowed to continue to operate without complying with data and employment laws, it sets a dangerous precedent that other companies may follow, leading to a race to the bottom in terms of standards. These unethical practices are destabilising the taxi industry, as customers perceive the taxi trade to be expensive based upon PH driver exploitation.
“A strong and effective regulator is essential to ensure that all operators in the marketplace are held to the same high standards of compliance with laws. This promotes a level playing field and ensures that businesses compete on the basis of quality and service rather than on employment costs. A weak regulator, on the other hand, creates a race to the bottom in terms of employment standards, leading to exploitation and undermining the integrity of the market.
“Uber's persistent breaches of regulations and safety standards are totally unacceptable and require forceful and immediate action from you. TfL must once again carry out an urgent and comprehensive review of Uber's fit and proper status to hold an Operator's Licence, with the aim of suspending or revoking their licence.
“As Uber's regulator, TfL has a duty to prioritise public safety and take strong action against companies that repeatedly violate regulations. We expect a prompt response from TfL confirming that they will take the necessary steps to protect Londoners.”
UTAG are a group that has been working on behalf of all taxi drivers since 2018 to protect their future. UTAG membership has been substantial and comprises taxi drivers, suppliers of goods and services to the trade, and supportive members of the public.
An Uber spokesperson responded to the UTAG letter telling TaxiPoint: “Uber is still carefully studying these rulings and in due course will decide whether to appeal to the Dutch Supreme Court.
“We are disappointed that the court did not recognise the robust processes we have in place, including meaningful human review, when making a decision to deactivate a driver’s account due to suspected fraud.
“Uber maintains the position that these decisions were based on human review and not on automated decision making, which was acknowledged earlier by the previous court.
“These rulings only relate to a few specific drivers from the UK that were deactivated in the period between 2018 and 2020 in relation to very specific circumstances.”
A TfL spokesperson told TaxiPoint: “We are aware of the judgement from the Amsterdam Court of Appeal and are considering the detail of the ruling.”