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UBER’s latest licensing defeat “a wake-up call” says union

Mick Rix

Imminent expiry of Uber’s licence in York latest in a year of blows to San Francisco transport giant in UK cities following landmark legal defeat over drivers’ rights. Contributor Mick Rix, National Officer for Transport – GMB.

GMB, the drivers’ union, has called on transport giant Uber as it faced yet another blow, with its private hire operator’s licence expired in the City of York on 23/12/17. Uber’s private hire operator’s licence expired following a City Council decision to refuse the transport giant a new licence, in the wake of complaints it received – and concerns about the company’s data breach.

The company had been granted a private hire operator’s licence in the City of York in December 2016 to run until midnight tomorrow. But the City of York council’s gambling, licensing and regulatory committee refused Uber a renewed licence to operate on Tuesday 12 December 2017. Uber was given 21 days to appeal the decision. The company can continue operating until the deadline on 7 January 2018 – 21 days after it received the official notification of the committee’s decision, or lodge an appeal.

It is set to be the latest blow to the multi-billion pound San Francisco giant, coming after the European Court of Justice this week rejected Uber’s claim that it is not a transport company, despite the company’s repeated insistence. Contesting Uber’s claim that it was not a transport company had formed a crucial part of GMB’s landmark October 2016 employment tribunal victory over Uber – with the tribunal rejecting the company’s claims.

In a monumental victory for GMB, the 2016 employment tribunal ruled that Uber drivers are workers and are therefore entitled to the minimum wage, holiday and sick pay. However, the company has continually refused to accept the verdict, even despite an employment appeal tribunal last month rejecting an attempt by Uber to have the decision reversed. The original ruling in GMB’s favour was upheld.

Since GMB’s employment tribunal victory in 2016, the beleaguered company has faced licencing battles in UK cities including London, Swansea and Sheffield. The suspension of Uber’s licence in Sheffield was lifted a few weeks ago.  A new application made by Uber to operate private hire cars in Sheffield is being considered and a decision will be made in early 2018.

GMB was this week granted permission to participate as an interested party in Uber’s appeal against the decision by Transport for London (TfL) not to renew its licence in London, which is expected to be heard in summer 2018. This week’s European Court of Justice ruling added further support to GMB’s longstanding argument that Uber is a transport company.

Mick Rix, GMB National Officer for Transport said: This latest blow should be a new year wake up call for Uber. It can no longer behave like it’s on another planet. How many times does Uber have to lose before it gets the message? “As we enter the new year, 2018 should be the time for this company to really turn over a new leaf and accept reality – that Uber is a transport company, that it’s drivers are workers with rights, and that it must comply with a level playing field of licensing to protect the safety of the public and the welfare of all drivers.

“Uber has been in denial for far too long. The company is fighting a losing battle, wasting time and money protesting against the decisions that have repeatedly gone against it. Uber should instead be getting round the table and setting out how it will change its ways.”

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