Press release: Leeds Uber drivers protest 17% rate cut

Uber drivers will be demonstrating outside Leeds Town Hall on Friday March 18 between 4pm and 6pm to highlight to the City Council licensing authorities the grave impact of recent fare cuts.

Uber recently cut fares by up to 17% resulting in a reduction in driver take home pay by as much as 40%. These cuts come on top of a significant increase in area licensing and the reduction in the number of operators as Uber begins to capture the entire market. The result is drivers have to work much longer hours for much less money. Drivers are working excessive and unsafe hours – as much as 90 hours per week – and earning £5 per hour or less. Besides the obvious violation of basic worker rights, these working conditions pose a significant threat to the travelling public.

James Farrar Co Founder of UPHD said:

‘No fair minded person can condone working conditions little better than rolling sweat shops in 2016 Leeds. Certainly, we should not expect an elected city council to preside over such an exploitative system.’

Councillor Mary Harland, Chair of the Leeds City Council Licensing Committee and John Mulcahy, Head of Elections, Licensing and Registration have agreed to meet a delegation from UPHD representing drivers to hear their concerns.

Protesting drivers intend to raise key questions to the Council including

Should a firm that fails to guarantee compensation to drivers of at least the national minimum wage equivalent, pays VAT on UK business in the Netherlands and contracts Leeds drivers from the Netherlands be assessed as ‘Fit and Proper’ for an operator’s license in Leeds under the law?

· Does the Council appreciate the safety implications of drivers having to work increasingly excessive hours due to declining pay at Uber?

· Why has the Council allowed Uber to operate without a 24 hour manned office in the City per the regulatory requirements?

· Why has neither the City nor Uber provided suitable infrastructure for Uber’s growing operation in the City including parking areas so to avoid congestion and suitable rest and comfort facilities?

Nadeem Iqbal, UPHD West Yorkshire Organiser said:

‘Leeds drivers are crying out for the City authorities to step into what has become an increasingly out of control, unsafe and unfair licensing regime. Every day I meet drivers now facing debt and despair as they struggle to keep up with their fixed costs while their incomes fall due to falling fares and a flood of new drivers who Uber have promised riches to.’

Yaseen Aslam Co Founder of UPHD said:

‘Throughout the country we are seeing the same story unfold with Uber. Local operators are driven to the wall while Uber force all responsibility and cost onto drivers while it retains the profits while bearing no risk. We welcome the technological innovation Uber brings to the market but exploitation of people does not have to be the price we all pay for progress.’

Contacts:

James Farrar – 07530 319206
Yaseen Aslam – 07894 528992
Nadeem Iqbal – 07716 552700

Barrow’s first black cab for 20 years hits the road

THE first black cab in a south Cumbrian town for around 20 years has hit the road – and its owner is hoping it can spark a new era for taxi services in the area.

The driver, Charlie Buck, of Ferry Road, Barrow, will be picking up customers in the area’s only registered hackney carriage.

He hopes that other taxi drivers will follow suit, and that people in the community will get to experience what he says are the many benefits of a hackney carriage.

Mr Buck said: “I hope other people will get them as I think it is better.

“The reason behind this is that I want everyone to be able to have one. The more of them the merrier.”

“I don’t want to be the only person to have one and I would like to see the number of them expand.”

Supporters of hackney carriages say they offer a number of advantages including being able to accommodate more users, easier disabled access and a secure position in the front seat for the driver.

Mr Buck gained his licence for the carriage around two weeks ago following discussions with councillors.

Speaking about how important easy disabled access is for customers, Mr Buck added: “It is very important. The advantages are the disabled access and I think that it is more comfortable for passengers, it is a better idea I think.

“The more people who get hackney carriages, the more carriages there are going to be which is better.”

Unlike private hire vehicles, hackney carriages can be hailed down by customers instead of having to pre-book them in advance.

Barrow Borough Council, as the licensing authority for hackney carriages, has a legal duty to commission independent periodic surveys of unmet demand for hackney carriages.

The last of these surveys, conducted by Vector Transport Consultancy, was considered at a meeting of the licensing regulatory committee on November 12 last year.

source: http://www.nwemail.co.uk/

Commons Questions

Cat Smith Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, Junior Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what representations his Department has received on the incidence of refusals by taxi drivers to carry assistance dogs; and if he will introduce compulsory disability awareness training for drivers of taxis and private hire vehicles.

 

 

Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I am aware of the ongoing problems passengers accompanied by assistance dogs encounter when using taxis and private hire vehicles.

The Department has issued comprehensive guidance to both licensing authorities and the licensed industry in respect of the relevant duties in the Equality Act 2010. Any allegations of breaches of the Act must be reported to the local licensing authority to enable them to take appropriate action.

Although there is no legal requirement for taxi and private hire vehicle drivers to undertake disability awareness training, the Department’s Best Practice Guidance on taxi and private hire vehicle licensing recommends that local licensing authorities to work with the industry in their area to improve drivers’ awareness of the needs of disabled people. This includes encouraging their drivers to undertake disability awareness training.

 

 

 

Karen Lumley Conservative, Redditch

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, pursuant to the Answer of 27 January 2016 to Question 23178, what recent progress the Government has made on planning to enact section 165 of the Equality Act 2010 on alternative means of ensuring that wheelchair users are able to access taxis.

 

Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The Government is continuing to actively consider how best to address problems wheelchair users face when using taxis and private hire vehicles, including the possible commencement of Section 165 of the Equality Act 2010.

Minicab passenger stripped off then wrecked his cab in a violent rampage

A minicab passenger took her clothes off in the back of a cab because she thought the driver wanted sex, then wrecked his vehicle and attacked him with a bottle.

Shareen Willock, 29, left Arshad Rasool spitting blood after drunkenly attacking him during a minicab journey in London.

A court heard that she was swigging from a bottle when she called a minicab to pick her up from Barnet, North London on January 17 this year.

Willock asked Mr Rasool to take her to East Ham, in East London – but on the way she suddenly undressed, wrongly thinking that the driver wanted to have sex with her.

She then began trashing the inside of his car, breaking an armrest and knocking the satnav off as she climbed into the front seat next to Mr Rasool.

At one point Willock poked the driver in the back of the head, causing him to sustain cuts to his ear, Thames magistrates’ court was told.

She demanded the car pull over, then snapped off a windscreen wiper and battered both Mr Rasool and his Toyota with it, costing £1,000 worth of damage.

Willock was given a suspended sentence after she pleaded guilty to causing criminal damage and common assault.

Prosecutor Alexa Morgan highlighted extracts from Mr Raspol’s victim impact statement in which he described having ‘no idea where I was because my satnav was broken’.
The driver added: ‘The female got out of the car and I got out as well. She broke the windscreen wiper and hit the windscreen.

‘She swung the wiper at the body of my car which caused several dents. She also hit me twice with the wiper on my arms and threw it away.’

Mr Rasool eventually dropped Willock off at a petrol station where the police were called and she was arrested.

Ms Morgan said: ‘The complainant suffered a small cut to the back of his ear and spat blood out when he actually got out of his car.’

Mez Motegheria, defending, said ‘She does accept fully that her behaviour was wrong and she is remorseful for her actions.

‘She does not recall any of the incident but she pleads guilty today and accepts she was intoxicated.’

Magistrate Stephen Bridges told Willock: ‘This is an assault of the highest category – you ruined his car.

‘All for the sake of we know not what. This assault is so serious that custody is the only option in the circumstances. Your behaviour beggars belief, frankly.’

Willock, from East Ham, was given a 12-week suspended sentence and 180 hours of unpaid work, and ordered to pay £650 in compensation.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/

Kalamazoo shooter saw ‘devil’ on Uber app, blames visions for killing spree

An Uber driver charged with fatally shooting six people in western Michigan told police that the ride-sharing company’s app takes over “your whole body” and forced him to go on a killing spree that also left two wounded.

In a series of reports released on Monday, Jason Dalton, 45, admitted his involvement in three shootings that took place over several hours on 20 February in the Kalamazoo area, but said Uber’s smartphone app was to blame.

Dalton told police that when he opened the ride-sharing app, he “recognized the Uber symbol as being that of the Eastern Star” and that a “devil head” would pop up on his screen. He said that that was “when all the problems started”.

After the first shooting at an apartment complex, Dalton stopped at his parents’ house to switch vehicles with his wife, after getting into an accident with his Chevy Equinox, the report stated.

Dalton explained that he was “nearly run off the road” by an “angry taxi driver upset” that he was driving for Uber. 

Dalton’s wife “did not really believe Jason’s story about the crash because he would not look her in the eye, even when she purposely stepped directly in front of him”.

In an interview with the Kalamazoo department of public safety, Dalton said “he is not a killer” but “knows that he has killed”.

“Dalton said that the iPhone can take you over,” a report stated, adding: “Dalton said he wishes he would never have spoken what that symbol was when he saw it on his phone. Dalton described the devil figure as a horned cow head … and then it would give you an assignment and it would literally take over your whole body.”

Initially, he opted to plead the fifth amendment, but relented when police disclosed that he fatally shot a 17-year-old boy. Asked if he had a comment for the child’s parents, Dalton replied: “I’m sorry.”

He was charged last month with six counts of murder and two counts of assault with intent to murder in connection with the shootings at an apartment complex, car lot and Cracker Barrel restaurant.

A judge earlier this month ordered a psychological examination at the request of Dalton’s court-appointed attorney, and the evaluation is expected to take upward of 60 days.

The report stated that Dalton was apprehensive about discussing the Uber app, saying he didn’t “want to come across as being a crazy person,” and that was “why he was pleading the fifth earlier”.

Dalton also told police that he did not drink or smoke, and was not on “psychotic or psychosis drugs”, adding that that he was not in bad financial straits and did not consider himself a “anti-government or militia-type person”.

In an interview with the Kalamazoo county sheriff’s office, a former colleague of Dalton’s said he was “quirky” but added “there seemed to be a ‘side’ to Jason that many people may not have seen unless they worked with him”.

The pair worked for an insurance company and, on one occasion witnessed “Jason yell at a customer over the phone, eventually slamming the phone down, hanging up on the customer.”

“Jason was very upset and stood up and paced around his desk after the conversation,” the report stated. “[The former colleague] said that Jason had been counseled about his professionalism with customers prior to this.”

At one point, a detective asked Dalton why he never uninstalled the app, but Dalton said it “sort of had you at a certain point”.

“Dalton said that if he would’ve never ever mentioned the Uber symbol resembling the Eastern Star,” the report said, “he never would’ve had any problems.”

source: http://www.msn.com/

Minicab firm boss jailed after council bribe offer recorded on mobile phone

Muzaffar Hussain

A county council employee “became suspicious” and recorded the offer of the bribe on his mobile phone

A minicab firm boss has been jailed for offering a council contracts officer a “four-figure sum” to stop his company getting penalised.

Muzaffar Hussain, of Station Road, Redhill, asked his friend Saeed Shakir to offer a £500 cash sum with the promise of further payments to the Surrey County Council official.

Hussain, 46, was a director of the Road Runners Gatwick Ltd minicab company, which provided home-to-school transport services for the local authority.

At Croydon Crown Court on Friday (March 11), Hussain was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to offering a bribe contrary to the Bribery Act 2010.

Shakir, aka Sid Owen, 46, of The Quarry, Betchworth, was jailed for 20 months after pleading guilty to the same offence.

Contract terminated

The court heard problems had arisen with the contract, due to the company not managing a number of the routes satisfactorily, and it was about to be penalised by having these routes taken away.

In December 2013, Shakir arranged a meeting with the council officer, at which he offered him a £500 cash bribe along with a promise of ongoing payments of a four-figure sum, to be negotiated with Hussain.

The council employee reported the matter to his line manager and group manager, who subsequently contacted Surrey Police.

The minicab company’s £1m contract with the county council was subsequently terminated.

‘Plan backfired’

Detective Constable Pete Irvine, of Surrey Police’s economic crime unit, said: “This investigation has resulted in the imprisonment of these two men and demonstrates how seriously we take allegations of bribery.

“These men took desperate action when they realised the contracts were about to be taken away but their plan has backfired on them thanks to the victim, who became suspicious before the meeting and had the foresight to record the offer of the bribe on his mobile phone.

“He then acted with integrity and professionalism by reporting the matter to his line manager straight away.”

Surrey County Council’s travel and transport group manager, Paul Millin, said: “We have a zero tolerance approach to anyone attempting to bribe our staff so as soon as I was made aware of what happened I reported it to Surrey Police.

“We have been working closely with them since the incident and are pleased with the outcome of the case.

“We hope this will send out a strong message that this behaviour will not be tolerated and will be dealt with severely.”

source: http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/

Uber drivers in Manchester angry over ‘sweatshop conditions’ after fares cut

Drivers say decision to cut fares left them earning below minimum wage

Drivers for the smartphone cab service Uber have claimed they are being employed under “sweatshop conditions” as they launched a protest against a move to drastically reduce fares.

The drivers in Manchester, dozens of whom protested outside the firm’s office in the city, said the decision to cut fares there had been made without concern for their welfare and left them earning below the minimum wage.

They have now written to Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese asking for a “crisis meeting” to discuss the “sweatshop conditions” amid claims some are having to work 90 hours week to make ends meet.

Uber said the average 14 per cent reduction in fares had led to higher demand for the service and average hourly payments for drivers had increased by 8 per cent.

Yaseen Aslam, co-founder of United Private Hire Drivers, the UK’s largest organisation for the private-hire trade, said: “Uber drivers are earning well below minimum wage and are having to work excessive and unsafe hours to meet their costs and earn enough to support their families.”

The US-based firm has transformed the taxi business since it was launched in 2008. Customers use a mobile phone app to book and pay for their ride, which has angered black-cab drivers who say it undercuts their business.

Ahmed Nurein, chairman of the Manchester Private Hire Drivers’ Forum, said: “Manchester City Council must not close their eyes to unsafe, sweatshop conditions as meted out to drivers by Uber.”

Mustafa Khanbhai, general manager of Uber in Manchester, said: “We want the thousands of drivers who use our app to have more fare-paying passengers in their car for each hour on the road. That’s why fares were reduced in the city.”

source: http://www.independent.co.uk/

Downing Street taxi protest against “rapist” minicabs leaves London’s roads in chaos

Cab drivers demonstrate outside over private hire rules

It’s yet another transport dispute that isn’t being resolved and, yet again, Londoners are going nowhere.

Black cab drivers in the capital staged protests today over the safety standards of private hire vehicles.

Claiming “no woman is safe in a minicab”, the drivers blocked roads in Whitehall and across London for a two-hour protest at 11am today.

The protest was organised by the United Cabbies Group (UCG) who said Transport for London has dropped the requirement for minicab drivers to have a full criminal background check, while black cab drivers still need to comply, which can take months to complete.

The union said: “The upshot of this is that members of the public can now listen to free music on their mp3 players whilst being driven around by rapists or murderers. There are over 100 reported sexual assaults in minicabs in London every year and we know less than 10% of rapes and sexual assaults are reported.”

source: http://www.londonlovesbusiness.com/

Brighton taxi driver facing deportation over visa technicality

A postgraduate Brighton student is in detention and faces deportation because he fell foul of a technicality which left him in breach of his visa while working as a taxi driver.

Shukaib, 23, who came to the UK from Afghanistan in 2011 and who is said to be considered a model student by his University of Brighton tutors, was taken into custody after a raid at City Cabs in Queens Road on Saturday evening.

His visa does allow him to work part time, but only as a direct employee – and although he worked exclusively for City Cabs, he did this on a self-employed basis, putting him in technical breach of its conditions.

Immigration checks made by Brighton and Hove City Council when it granted his personal taxi licence two months ago did not pick up on this issue – and City Cabs itself is not allowed to make them as he is not an employee.

He is now in detention at Gatwick awaiting deportation with no right of appeal, but is pinning his hopes on a favourable Home Office response to representations made by his lawyers on his behalf.

His caseworker Raj Rayan of James & Co solicitors said: “Shukaib’s case results from an entirely innocent and minor misinterpretation of his employment with City Cabs in Brighton.

“The decision of the Home Office is an entirely discretionary one, but unlike others in similar situations Shukaib was not warned that his work may be considered self-employment, he was not asked to stop work, no relevance was placed on the fact the local council had authorised his work with the taxi company, but instead he was immediately detained.

“These extremely unfortunate circumstances are compounded by the fact that for nine years Shukaib’s family in Afghanistan have worked closely with the American and British forces during the conflict in his home country.

“He has now acquired skills which would be of invaluable assistance to rebuilding the shattered infrastructure in Afghanistan. However the fact that it appears as if he will now be prevented from completing his Masters will be a serious impediment to his future career.

“We have also been told by the University that should he not be allowed to continue his studies there is likely to be a detrimental impact on his fellow postgraduate students for whom he is a group leader.

“Due to dramatic restrictions made by the current government to immigration cases Shukaib has no right of appeal against the decision made against him. We have however submitted representations requesting that the Home Office exercise their discretion to reverse their current decision. We are still awaiting a response to our request.”

Andy Cheesman from City Cabs said Shukaib is a “lovely guy”. He said: “He came to me fully licensed – he has a full passport, he’s passed the police checks, national insurance number, all those things he should have for the council to give him a licence.

“The office was raided on Saturday and all 250 drivers were looked at, and this one driver was taken away. As a taxi firm we are not in trouble whatsoever.

“He’s a lovely guy, he’s a genius. He’s doing a masters at Brighton University and working on a big project in construction – he’s a very clever boy.

“He spent thousands of pounds getting all his gear and his licence, and now this happens.”

The Home Office said it took Shukaib into custody after “acting on intelligence”.

Assistant Director Richard Lederle, head of the Kent and Sussex Immigration Enforcement Team, said: “We will not relent in our efforts to arrest and detain immigration offenders in Sussex.

“This operation serves as a warning, as those we arrest face being removed from the UK.”

A council spokesperson said: “Licensing authorities already conduct checks to determine whether someone is ‘fit and proper’ to hold a driver or operator licence. However, they have discretion over the type of checks made and although many conduct immigration checks, these are not mandatory.

“Brighton and Hove does carry out these checks but it is the responsibility of the driver to ensure that they are working legally in the UK.”

A spokesperson for the University of Brighton said: “This is a matter for the Home Office and it would be inappropriate for the university to comment.”

source: http://www.brightonandhovenews.org/

Uber’s bid to bring taxi app to Reading refused by the council

Licensing leaders refused Uber’s bid to branch out into Reading

UBER bosses have been refused permission to bring their app-based taxi booking service to Reading.

Councillors denied the bid after the company failed to prove it could meet the council’s guidelines including having a round the clock manned office.

Despite claims more than 20,000 people in the town had tried to access the mobile app in recent months the licensing applications sub-committee also said there was no evidence of demand for the service.

The system uses GPS and mobile data to find the nearest private hire vehicle and developers pride themselves on being able to guarantee quick pick up times by using people’s location and a competitive pricing system at busier times.

Speaking at last night’s meeting at Reading Borough Council’s Civic Offices Thomas Elvidge, general manager at Uber, called on members of the committee to give them the green light.

He said: “We are really excited about coming to Reading and really believe there is demand for the service.

“We can provide and enhancement and [what] for the industry and we really want to be here in Reading to do that.”

But councillors were unconvinced and quizzed Mr Elvidge on how customers could get in touch with problems if their office was not manned 24 hours.

Cllr Jeanette Skeats said: “So if there was a problem, and we do get problems sometimes in the trade where officers have to go around to your office, would there be someone in charge?

“The buck has to stop somewhere.”

Uber’s legal representative assured members that contact could be made by posting a review through the app despite there being no phone number to call.

He said: “If it’s to do with a fare then that will be dealt with in one way but – and we hope this would never happen – if there was an allegation of a verbal or physical abuse you would get a phone call from us.”

Issues were also raised about the firm’s so-called surge pricing model which seeks to discourage certain customers by increasing the cost of a journey at peak times to ensure supply does not outstrip demand.

Asif Rashid, chairman of Reading Taxi Association, said: “I can assure you Reading is a notorious place for bad traffic and for drivers of private hire cars there are places in the town centre they cannot go when it’s busy.

“But if those drivers are suddenly stuck in traffic then your surge pricing will kick in.”

Mr Rashid added concerns that drunk customers would not be aware how much they were paying until the following day.

Refusing the application for a private hire vehicle operator’s licence committee chairman Cllr Paul Woodward said: “Having considered the case and all the representations we have decided to refuse to grant Thomas Elvidge a private hire vehicle operator’s licence due to not being considered a fit and proper person.”

Their reasons included not meeting the licence conditions, not having a manned office and lack of clarity on vehicle numbers.

Speaking after the meeting an Uber spokesperson said: “Uber has been granted more than 40 operator licences by local councils across the country so we’re extremely surprised and disappointed by last night’s decision.

“In every town and city we operate we bring new economic opportunities for people who want to be their own boss and make money by being a licensed private hire driver.

“Millions of people across the UK regularly use Uber to get a convenient, safe and affordable ride at the push of a button.

“We remain convinced there’s real demand for Uber in Reading as more than 22,000 people in the town have opened our app in the last 90 days alone.”

source: http://www.readingchronicle.co.uk/