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Uber remedy is no cross-border cure all

Anyone reading Uber’s recent press release, could be forgiven that the cross-border issues are done and dusted, that Uber is now conforming to custom and practice and respecting the UK’s local licensing principles. Unfortunately this is not the case.

Closer reading of Uber’s statement shows that while they are no longer issuing work to any driver, anywhere, they are willing to offer drivers cross-border work on a regional basis. For example, if you are a driver licensed in Leeds, you can still work cross-border anywhere in the Yorkshire ‘region’. the same follows for the Midlands, Greater Manchester, the South Coast etc…

While Uber’s new policy on cross-border could perhaps be argued and welcomed by the taxi and private trades. It can’t be ignored that Uber took cross-border hiring to a whole new dimension. Previously cross-border hiring had only been going on at a local level, as demonstrated by the recent Delta court action. In that case Knowsley had tried to impose an ‘intention to work in area’ clause into its private hire licensing. Delta contested this, and the Judge agreed with them. This now leaves Delta drivers free to operate across the whole of the Merseyside area.

Uber’s whole recruitment structure ignores local licensing structures and instead focuses on regional driver availability. Uber’s ‘Ignition‘ service for potential drivers offers various centers around the UK , offering advice and help on how to get licensed as a private hire driver. Once licensed drivers will then be able to work across their selected region.

Unite the union policy

Unite Cab Section policy on cross-border hiring is that a private hire journey either starts or ends in the area for which the driver and vehicle are licensed. The policy is also supported by Labour’s Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London and Wes Streeting’s All Party Parliamentary Group on taxis and private hire. This policy, simple in its wording, would put an end to the current cross-border nightmare, without restricting passengers from using their favourite local operator for return journeys.

In December Unite wrote to the Local Government Association saying that Uber’s licence should be revoked on the grounds of not being ‘fit and proper’. Because even while discussing its London license with TfL, Uber had been concealing a mammoth data breachaffecting 57 million passengers and drivers worldwide with 2.7 million of those being in the UK. Worse still, Uber had actually paid off the hackers responsible to keep the story out of the public realm. Uber now says that it is “changing the way we do business to enhance driver and rider safety“. Arguably the truth is that these measures are only what Uber should have been doing in the first place.

Unite has long campaigned for and end to the nightmare of cross-border hirings, and it will continue to do so. Unite is also campaigning for high minimum standards for the taxi and private hire services, licenced at a local level. In addition, Unite believes that authorities should also have powers to go beyond ‘minimum standards’ should they wish to. Only through better regulation can taxi and private hire services be deemed safe to use for passengers. Uber’s attitude to rules clearly shows a ‘disrespect’ for current regulations, and the company’s latest public relations exercise does nothing to remedy this.

Posted by Peter J Rose @peterjrose1

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