I have worked as a private-hire (minicab) driver for Uber over the last two years. I was also recently elected as the joint representative of GMB drivers working for Uber. So, I can comment with some degree of authority over how those on the front-line, the drivers, have fared under Uber.
As Uber reels from today's Transport for London verdict on its application to renew its license to operate in the capital, it gives us pause for thought to ask - how has it come to this?
TfL granted Uber a licence extension of just four months in May, rather than the fresh five year licence to operate that had been widely expected, following the continued opposition and challenges from the GMB union and other campaigners. That extension expires at the end of this month, leaving the company - and drivers - waiting nervously. It's an unprecedented challenge to the company's so far unchecked behaviour, but it should hardly be a surprise.
As a driver for Uber - this is a frustrating situation. My trade union GMB secured a landmark legal win at employment tribunal last year. We challenged the company's claim that its Uber drivers are self-employed. We clearly showed that us Uber drivers are workers - and are therefore entitled to basic rights such as the minimum wage, holiday and sick pay. The judgement couldn't have been clearer - but Uber simply refused to accept it.
We've since been working with consumer champion SumOfUs to tell Uber to respect the judgement. We've been telling them it's time for them to respect drivers' rights and to protect public safety. On Monday we handed a 100,000 strong petition to City Hall calling on Uber to respect drivers or get out of London. Public opinion is on our side. A YouGov poll for SumOfUs this weeks shows 72% of Londoners believe TfL should force Uber to respect workers' rights.
TfL have a duty to keep Londoners safe - and if Uber cannot stand playing by the rules, then it can have no place in London. Playing fair would safeguard drivers from abuse and protect the public - but as this soap opera drags on, it is drivers and the public who risk paying the price.
Uber's stubborn refusal has put its business - and drivers' livelihoods in jeopardy. But no company can behave as if it's above the law. The hail is now for Uber to make. The company must change its ways or get out of London.