Uber ban: Driver who won landmark legal battle against firm warns 'clones' could follow

James Farrar says TfL should have enforced existing regulations, rather than impose a ban which threatens 30,000 jobs

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Friday 22 September 2017 16:42
Comments
Through no fault of their own, thousands of drivers now face unemployment and significant debt from vehicle loans and leases
Through no fault of their own, thousands of drivers now face unemployment and significant debt from vehicle loans and leases

An Uber driver who won a landmark court case against the taxi hire firm has warned that “clone” companies could exploit the decision to ban it from London.

James Farrar was one of two employees who took the US-based company to court, in order to secure drivers’ rights to the national living wage, holiday, breaks and sick pay last year.

Despite the legal dispute, he condemned Transport for London’s (TfL) decision not to renew Uber’s licence to operate in the capital.

Mr Farrar, who is chair of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain’s (IWGB) united private-hire drivers branch, said: “This is a disaster.”

Mr Farrar told The Independent that “thirty thousand jobs are being destroyed by this decision”.

“There’s nothing we’ve learned today that we didn’t know five years ago and TfL has been tone-deaf to our concerns. We’ve gone from a situation of ‘do whatever you like’ to ‘get out’.”

TfL said Uber had demonstrated a “lack of corporate responsibility” over issues including crimes committed by drivers, medical certificates, criminal record checks and the use of software that frustrates attempts at regulation.

Mr Farrar said Uber should already have been held to account using updated existing regulations and employment laws, rather than an effective ban which is due to come into effect on 21 October.

Uber has licence stripped in London

He added: “The danger now with kicking Uber out is that the underlying causes have not been dealt with – we’re just going to have clones coming in and repeat this business model.

“I see nothing in the Mayor’s decision that is going to prevent that.”

Mr Farrar predicted that other firms would seek to repeat Uber’s success by “blurring the line” between private hire taxis, which must be booked in advance, and the more tightly regulated instant-hire cabs.

Rival firms including MyTaxi and Gett, which allow users to electronically hail licenced black cabs, have already been seeking to capitalise on Uber’s fall from grace by offering discounts.

But Mr Farrar warned that, although individual black cab drivers undergo more training and checks than individual Uber drivers, the firms themselves were “completely unregulated”.

Mr Farrar’s case resulted in the High Court ordering Uber to class its drivers as employees, rather than self-employed, and afford them corresponding rights.

“The notion that Uber in London is a mosaic of 30,000 small businesses linked by a common ‘platform’ is to our minds faintly ridiculous,” judges concluded.

Regarding the decision to ban Uber, Farrar notes: “One of the things that concerns me is that TfL still hasn’t mentioned worker rights at all.”

“TfL doubled the number of private-hire licensees, generating millions of pounds, and now those same people through no fault of their own face unemployment and significant debt from vehicle loans and leases.”

The union accused TfL of absolving itself of responsibility for regulatory oversight with the ban on Uber, which has divided Londoners, taxi drivers and politicians.

Uber has vowed to appeal the decision not to renew its five-year licence on the grounds of “public safety and security implications”.

The firm, which is used by 3.5 million people in London, said the move “would show the world that, far from being open, London is closed to innovative companies”.

Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, said all companies must “play by the rules”. “Providing an innovative service must not be at the expense of customer safety and security,” he continued.

”I fully support TfL’s decision – it would be wrong if TfL continued to license Uber if there is any way that this could pose a threat to Londoners’ safety and security.”

Uber’s general manager in London, Tom Elvidge, said the firm would immediately challenge the ban in court to “defend the livelihoods of all those drivers, and the consumer choice of millions of Londoners who use our app”.

Last month, police accused the company of allowing a driver who sexually assaulted a passenger to strike again by not reporting the attack, along with other serious crimes.

Inspector Neil Billany, of the Metropolitan Police’s taxi and private hire team, suggested the company was putting concerns for its reputation over public safety, in a letter made public after a Freedom of Information request.

The ride is used by 3.5 million people in London

Uber has faced strong resistance from existing taxi drivers in cities around the world, who have mounted protests by bringing roads to a standstill amid a series of allegations of sexual assault against drivers.

It was temporarily banned in Delhi after a driver raped a passenger. It was also pulled out of Austin, Texas, over fingerprint checks, and has left Denmark after the introduction of tougher taxi laws.

​The controversy has also extended to the company’s internal affairs, with chief executive Travis Kalanick resigning in July following a series of scandals and criticism of his management style.

A month earlier, the company sacked 20 people after a law firm investigated specific complaints over sexual harassment, bullying and retaliation against staff who reported problems.

Uber has been embroiled in several court cases in the UK, where the High Court ruled in its favour against black cabbies in 2015 by declaring that its software did not break the law, as it effectively amounted to a meter.

Uber lost another case that reached the same court in March, after it attempted to block a new TfL rule requiring private-hire drivers to undergo English language tests.

Business groups have warned of the “human cost” of TfL’s decision, which has been broadly welcomed by unions including Unite and the GMB.

An online petition launched by Uber urging Mr Khan to reverse the ban had been signed by almost 200,000 people by Friday afternoon.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in