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Uber being stripped of their London licence signals the first nail in the coffin for the gig economy

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Earlier today, Transport for London announced that Uber will not be issued with a private hire operator licence, saying the service is “not fit and proper” to operate in London.

In a statement made this morning on Twitter, TfL said that:

Uber’s approach and conduct demonstrate a lack of corporate responsibility in relation to a number of issues which have potential public safety and security implications

The statement went on to highlight Uber’s approach to reporting criminal offences and obtaining medical certificates amongst other problems.

Despite widespread approval of the decision, London Mayor Sadiq Khan has come under some criticism for the decision, with people voicing concerns about the huge job losses this decision may result in, plus what the decision means for cheap transport in London.

With Uber currently employing around 40,000 drivers in London, today’s statement is a sign that things could be about to get a lot fairer for them – a far cry from any jobs losses.

Uber is now available in over 40 cities across the UK, and is ever expanding; and only yesterday it was launched in Derby. It can be safely assumed that Uber will not accept the decision by TfL without an appeal.

Tfl’s statement preempts Uber’s likely course of action, stating that the service “can continue to operate until at appeal processes have been exhausted”.

https://twitter.com/TfL/status/911168235189489669

Currently, Uber is notorious for the way it treats its drivers. Less than a year ago, a report by Labour MP Frank Field found Uber drivers being treated as Victorian-style “sweated labour”. Some drivers said they were taking home significantly less than the “national living wage” after accounting for running costs.

As Uber drivers are legally classed as “self employed”, the company is not obliged to pay them the minimum wage. This means drivers can work long hours and still not be earning enough to live. It also evades any responsibility for Uber to pay sick leave or contribute to pensions.

2017 has already been a bad year for Uber. In June the company fired 20 employees following a widespread investigation into sexual assault. 40 more employees were reprimanded. In May, the US government began an investigation into the Uber’s use of “Greyball” technology. It blocks local regulators from being able to book a cab via Uber in areas where the service is not allowed to operate. “Greyball” technology was also criticised in Transport for London’s statement regarding Uber this morning.

In the past year, Uber has also seen its CEO, Chief Business Officer and one of its Directors resign.

Uber is a typical example of a big player in the ever-growing “gig” economy. Like Deliveroo, it twists the law to offer a form of employment that appears flexible and appealing, but in reality takes advantage of working class people, taking away workers rights and leaving employees short of the national living wage.

This isn’t the first warning the company has received about how they conduct their service. Following this decision, Uber will either have to make some big changes, or it may be pushed out of the city. Either way, this decisions surely signals the first nail in the coffin for the gig economy.

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