- Uber drivers criticised a decision by London’s transport regulator not to renew Uber’s operating licence, potentially meaning the ride-hailing app will have to pull out of the UK capital.
- UK drivers’ union UPHD said the decision was a “hammer blow” to the 50,000 Uber drivers working in London.
- Transport for London, the city’s transport regulator, said Uber was not “fit and proper” to hold the licence amid concerns that Uber’s drivers were not who they said they were.
- London is one of Uber’s biggest markets globally with more than 3.5 million riders. Uber has 21 days to appeal the decision, and can keep operating within that time period.
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Uber drivers are concerned for their future earnings after the ride-hailing app lost its licence to operate in London on Monday.
London’s transport regulator, Transport for London, declined to renew Uber’s licence and said the firm was not “fit and proper” to hold it amid concerns that some Uber drivers were not who they said they were.
UPHD, a union for private hire drivers, said the licence block would make life harder for the city’s thousands of Uber drivers.
James Farrar, chair of UPHD, said in a statement: “The Mayor’s [Sadiq Khan’s] decision to once again deny Uber a licence will come as a hammer blow to its 50,000 drivers working under precarious conditions.
“Many will now face the distress of facing not only unemployment but also crippling debt as they struggle to meet car lease payments. The terrible price of Transport for London’s inability to run a stable regulatory regime and Uber’s refusal to play by the rules will be paid for by the most vulnerable workforce in London.
“We are asking for an urgent meeting with the Mayor to discuss what mitigation plan can now be put in place to protect Uber drivers.”
Uber has come under some scrutiny for the way it treats drivers, and the precarity of their earnings while driving for the app.
Drivers must pick up the costs of vehicle maintenance and insurance, as well as the cost of obtaining the correct licenses. Studies have suggested that Uber drivers earn less than the minimum wage on average, although the company disputes those statistics.
Farrar is the former Uber driver who, along with fellow driver Yaseen Aslam, successfully took the ride-hailing giant to court in 2017 over drivers’ employment status. The UK’s High Court ruled in 2017, that Uber must treat its drivers as workers as opposed to self-employed contractors, with all the economic and legal rights that worker status entails.
Uber’s licence renewal was blocked thanks to fraudulent drivers
London’s transport regulator, Transport for London, said it declined to renew Uber’s licence over concerns that fraudulent drivers were able to pick up passengers via the app.
The regulator said it found 14,000 rides with unauthorised drivers had taken place, raising serious questions over passenger safety.
Uber said it had taken steps to improve its identification processes for drivers, and said it would appeal the decision. The firm can continue operating in London while it appeals.
Black cab drivers, who oppose to Uber on the grounds the app encroaches on their livelihoods, welcomed the decision not to renew its licence.
Steve McNamara, General Secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association – the largest union of drivers who operate the city’s traditional black cabs – said: “The Mayor has absolutely made the right decision in refusing to re-licence Uber, and Londoners will be safer as a result. “Unfit operators cannot get away with deliberately shirking their responsibilities. Uber have had 17 months to comply with the conditions of their temporary licence, and yet they have continually put Londoners at risk by letting drivers on the road who aren’t properly licensed or insured.”
Jamie Heywood, Uber’s regional manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, said: “We have fundamentally changed our business over the last two years and are setting the standard on safety,” Heywood’s statement added. “TfL found us to be a fit and proper operator just two months ago, and we continue to go above and beyond.
“On behalf of the 3.5 million riders and 45,000 licensed drivers who depend on Uber in London, we will continue to operate as normal and will do everything we can to work with TfL to resolve this situation.”
It has since emerged that Uber intends to introduce a “facial matching process” to improve its driver verification processes. Uber has not responded to Business Insider’s request for more detail.
Yaseen Aslam, Farrar’s partner in the successful lawsuit against Uber in 2017 and the current UPHD general secretary, criticised Uber’s move to what appears to be facial recognition. He noted that it is especially worrying for drivers from ethnic minorities, who make up a majority of London’s private hire drivers per TfL statistics.
Aslam said in a statement: “According to TfL’s own data, 94% of London’s private hire drivers are BAME and 71% come from the most deprived London communities. As such, any decision by Uber to introduce facial recognition technology at the behest of Transport for London amounts to a hugely disproportionate and discriminatory response.
“We already know that facial recognition technology has significant problems leading to troubling outcomes for people of colour.”
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