Practical solidarity for a world that puts people first

Big win for workers’ rights as TFL rejects #Uber London licence

Drivers’ union GMB has scored a major victory for drivers’ rights and passenger safety, as Transport for London turned down Uber’s licence application to operate in the capital.

GMB and SumOfUs campaigners petition TfL. Photo: Jess Hurd/ reportdigital.co.uk

TFL decided that "Uber London Limited is not fit and proper to hold a private hire operator licence."

It follows GMB’s successful employment tribunal case last year, which proved Uber’s drivers are employed by the firm, not self-employed as Uber claimed. That means they should be entitled to holiday pay, a guaranteed minimum wage and safety protections, as well as other basic employment rights.

The £51 billion San Francisco transport giant has been controversial around the world for circumventing workers’ rights and pay minimums in many countries where it operates.

Uber’s initial 5 year licence allowed them to operate a business of up to 40,000 cars in London. But unlike other firms they refused to give drivers either basic employment rights, or the full freedoms that come with genuine self-employment.

GMB, working with global corporate campaigners SumOfUs.org and the TUC, handed in a 100,000 strong petition earlier this week to City Hall. It called for TFL to force Uber to respect workers’ rights and passenger safety or get out of London.

Uber has become a byword for bad employment practices. 72% of Londoners believe that TfL should require Uber to guarantee basic rights for their drivers, according to a recent YouGov poll for SumOfUs.

GMB found that a member working exclusively for Uber received just £5.03 per hour in August 2015 after costs and fees were taken into account. That’s significantly below the national minimum wage. Uber also deducted sums from drivers’ pay, including when customers make complaints, and often without informing the drivers in advance.

GMB’s Legal Director, Maria Ludkin, welcomed the TfL ruling:

“It's about time the company faced up to the huge consequences of GMB's landmark employment tribunal victory - and changed its ways. No company can be behave like it's above the law, and that includes Uber.

"This decision vindicates our campaign and should be a wake-up call to a company that has for far too long been in denial.”

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said:

“This should be a cautionary tale for gig economy employers. Unions will expose nasty schemes that cheat workers out of basic rights like the minimum wage and holiday pay.”

If Uber want to operate in London again, they will need to play by the rules, and live up to their responsibilities to drivers and the travelling public alike.

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Advice for Uber drivers:

If you’re an Uber driver in London and worried about how this decision will affect you, please contact the GMB Pro Drivers’ branch for advice. Remember you are a licensed PH driver and can take that licence to another more responsible operator. For contact info see www.gmbdrivers.org

Photo by Jess Hurd / reportdigital.co.uk