London's minicab drivers ramp up pressure on Transport for London over Uber licence

 
Lynsey Barber
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Uber's licence is up for renewal after five years (Source: Getty)

Cabbies in the capital are ramping up pressure on Transport for London (TfL) over Uber's licence to operate in the city.

A fresh group of drivers, this time minicab operators, has threatened to pursue legal action against London's transport regulator, adding their voice to others opposing the renewal of Uber's licence.

United Private Hire Drivers (UPHD) has written to TfL setting out arguments calling for new conditions for the renewal of Uber's licence. The group represents hundreds of the 117,000 drivers of private hire vehicles in London, including a pair who won a legal battle against Uber over employment rights.

Read more: Black cab drivers are readying a fresh fight over Uber's licence in London

It follows a similar move by black cab drivers last month, who wrote to TfL ahead of Uber's licence renewal, which is expected this month.

The UPHD, represented by MWG Solicitors, argues new conditions enshrining workers' rights must be included and that public safety is being put at risk if they are not.

Earlier this year members of the London Assembly backed a motion calling on London mayor Sadiq Khan to lobby for powers to make workers' rights, such as sick pay, a condition of Uber's licence.

UPHD suggested it's willing to pursue a judicial review if TfL should "fail properly to consider these suggestions and proposals" or "consult broadly and appropriately" on the conditions of licence.

"TfL and the mayor must take decisive action to protect workers in the interests of public safety by making worker rights protections a condition of Uber’s licence renewal," said James Farrar, UPHD founder and one of the successful claimants in the employment tribunal against Uber.

Read more: Uber is speeding ahead with electric car plans in London

Uber in turn also has a simple choice to make: obey the law on worker rights or forego its licence. It can no be longer acceptable for TfL to literally licence exploitation for London’s public transportation system.

Uber is appealing the landmark legal decision of the employment tribunal last year, which ruled drivers are considered workers and are entitled to rights such as sick and holiday pay.

The ride-hailing startup made a concession to its drivers in the long-running battle over worker rights last month, introducing a subsidised option for insuring themselves against illness and injury.

A spokesperson for Uber said: "Millions of Londoners rely on Uber to get a reliable ride at the touch of a button and thousands of licensed drivers make money through our app.

"Almost all taxi and private hire drivers in the UK have been self-employed for decades and with Uber they have more control over what they do. Licensed drivers who use our app are totally free to choose if, when and where they drive with no shifts, minimum hours or uniforms.

"The vast majority of drivers who use Uber tell us they want to remain their own boss as that’s the main reason why they signed up to us in the first place. But we know drivers want more security too, which is why we are investing in a heavily discounted illness and injury cover offer for drivers with IPSE."

TfL said it does not comment on the status of individual licence applications.

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