Big news this week for gig economy workers who are drivers – Uber has lost its license to operate (again).
Uber’s loss of its London license may be particularly impactful on the gig economy. With 45,000 drivers, if it can’t work a way to get out of losing its license, that’s a lot of newly unemployed with nowhere to go. Will politicians let that happen, when the unemployment figure is going to reflect on a newly formed government?
Uber has called the decision ‘extraordinary and wrong,” but is it?
The issue centres on passenger safety, with unlicensed or banned drivers. TfL is accusing Uber of failing to conduct proper background checks into their drivers, and a software flaw which allowed drivers to upload their photos to the Uber appt other drivers accounts, and carry out uninsured and unlicensed trips. This clearly, according to TfL, puts passenger safety at risk.
Those in favour of Uber cite its popularity with the public, while those who deem it bad for society claim it’s simply a race to the bottom, in terms of how it pays workers and the ability it’s created to swerve paying employee benefits. It’s also led other, traditional taxi drivers to be forced to work longer hours, just to compete with the increased number of drivers available in the city. Some are seeing a typical, pre-Uber eight-hour day almost double, to be able to bring home the same amount of pay as they did before, as a result of the increased competition.
There’s also the issue of whether it’s actually worth being an Uber driver, when time spent driving back to busy areas after a drop-off, waiting for a passenger or to be hired, the required self-maintenance of a vehicle and lack of holiday pay and employee benefits means its hard graft that often is at less than the minimum living wage.
For now at least, is business as usual, as Uber has planned to appeal the decision (again) and that could take weeks or months, which at least means drivers (and the 3.5 million passengers who use Uber in London) should be fine using the ride-share app during the busy Christmas period. After that, like so many things in the news agenda right now – we’ll just have to wait and see.