Socialist Worker

TfL Uber ruling should have gone further

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2573

Uber has provoked protests across the globe by both workers and competitor bosses

Uber has provoked protests across the globe by both workers and competitor bosses (Pic: Aaron Parecki/Wikicommons)


Transport for London (TfL) has not renewed taxi firm Uber’s licence to operate in London.

The decision has sparked fierce debate about how to deal with “gig economy” firms.

Of the two limited options TfL forced upon itself—to renew or not—the latter is better.

But it doesn’t go far enough and TfL could have pursued many other options.

“If anything, I would have preferred them to grant Uber the licence but to attach conditions to it,” Uber driver Yaseen Aslam told Socialist Worker.

He said those conditions could have included forcing Uber to pay workers a minimum wage.

Strategy

Uber’s strategy is to saturate the market with drivers and then drop rates of pay.

It thrives on deregulation and sweeping away any restrictions on how business operates.

TfL didn’t have a problem with this at any point in the five years since Uber began operating in London.

Yaseen said, “People are becoming more aware of what’s going on and this has placed TfL under pressure.”

Uber’s licence was removed last week because it was not judged a “fit and proper” operator.

TfL found fault with the way the firm carried out driver background checks and administered medical certificates. Uber had the gall to say it would fight “in the courts to defend the livelihood of drivers”.

Yaseen is one of two drivers who won a landmark case in which the judge ruled they were Uber employees, not self-employed as the company claimed.

This meant they should have been entitled to sick pay, maternity pay and other statutory protections.

“TfL has done this too late,” said Yaseen. “Uber has now become so big and successful that drivers’ jobs and livelihoods are threatened.

“They have killed off all of their competitors.”

Uber will keep operating in London throughout the appeals process.

The firm is also set to appeal the decision in Yaseen and James Farrar’s case on Wednesday of this week. A protest has been called.

Rights

“We want to ensure that people working for companies such as Uber learn their basic rights when it comes to the minimum wage and things like this,” said Yaseen.

TfL’s decision is a step in the right direction.

But is unlikely to finish the journey because that would bring it into conflict with powerful interests.

Other taxi firms are waiting to swoop in on a market that has seen wages and conditions forced down by Uber.

TfL’s decision will do nothing to stop these firms filling Uber’s role.

Join the protest on the day of Uber’s appeal—Precarious Labour Strikes Back. Wednesday 27 September, 8am-10.30am, TfL, 197 Blackfriars Road, central London SE1 8NJ

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