Where do we go from here?

With a list of misdemeanours going back over a number of years and an admittance by Uber themselves that just a few short months ago they were not a fit and proper minicab company to be operating in the nations capital (let alone anywhere else in the country) it is, one would imagine, surprising that the Magistrate in this weeks appeal hearing chose to provide Uber with a stay of execution and allow them to continue operating as if nothing has happened for another 15 months, albeit with conditions attached.

Misconduct which included;
• Misleading correspondence following the meter case, and an admission that what was said by Uber to TFL and in the High Court was false.
• The use of software such as greyball to help Uber evade regulatory process.
• The use of software such as Ripley, which was used by Uber to lock regulators out of the system when performing compliance checks.
• The use of Push Doctor, an online medical service, by Uber to help speed up the application process for drivers wishing to sign up to the Uber platform. Incredibly this includes providing a piece of string 5 feet long and a lettered board to read to check the suitability of the applicant’s eye sight.
• Extensive data breach of confidential information held by Uber about their users.
• Failure to report serious allegations of criminal behaviour by Uber drivers (often against passengers) to relevant authorities, namely the Metropolitan Police.
• Failure to ensure applicants receive the correct enhanced DBS checks required of all taxi and private hire drivers.
• An admittance that the booking process used by Uber was illegal meaning that up to 2 million criminal offences were committed every week by drivers who accept a hiring from the Uber app.

The list goes on. We at RMT are particularly concerned that many private hire drivers are still working having taken an inadequate medical and without the correct DBS. We call on TFL to suspend any driver who holds a PH licence which falls into either of these categories as this is an obvious and serious safety issue which must be addressed forthwith.

The judge conceded that past conduct was relevant and should be taken into consideration when granting a license. It therefore beggars belief that the judge should come to such a decision as the one she made earlier this week. One can only wonder at the relationship between all the parties involved. The most damning indictment of all is that no one was surprised by this decision and in fact most were expecting that Uber would be allowed to carry on operating.

We have no doubt that at the end of the probationary period Uber will be granted a full 5-year license by TFL, perhaps even before. However, it is fair to say that we will be watching matters very closely

So where do we go from here?

It will not surprise anyone that we at RMT continue to believe that the preservation of the two-tier system, especially in the technological age, is vital if the taxi trade is to survive and flourish. We also believe that unless we move forward, as a trade, with unity then it will be very difficult for us to achieve. We were pleased that all representative bodies accepted our invitation to meet and discuss this issue recently at Unity House. We hope that further meetings will take place.

Of course, this is not the only issue affecting our trade, though we believe it is the primary issue. Access to road space is becoming more prevalent than ever before. Wednesday evening we gave a deputation to Camden council at a meeting to discuss proposed changes to the Judd Street/Euston Road junction.

We are also working to be included within local authority Trade Councils, something only trade unions can be affiliated to.

Cross border hirings are also an issue. One the judge was not particularly interested in during the previous two days hearing. It may be an issue more so outside of London rather than within the capital, however it does need to be addressed.

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), is nearing its conclusion and the Task and Finish group will publish its conclusions, hopefully, within the next few weeks. We were broadly happy with the APPG ‘Lessons from London’ report and hope that the Task and Finish group will produce recommendations all of us can get behind.

Finally

Unless we as a trade move forward with a united front on all the major issues affecting our future then the sad truth is those that wish to maltreat our futures will hold all the aces.

United we stand, divided we fall.

Andrew Hamshare,
Assistant branch secretary

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