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Gig economy exploiter Uber loses London licence
Moshin Ahmed, London bus driver and Tower Hamlets Socialist Party
Transport unions Unite, RMT and GMB are celebrating a victory against 'gig economy' taxi company Uber after forcing London Mayor Sadiq Khan to refuse to renew its operating licence.
Uber has been undercutting unionised taxi drivers, but the unions have been fighting back with strikes and demonstrations alongside legal challenges.
The GMB won an employment tribunal ruling last October over Uber, so that drivers should be regarded not as 'independent contractors' but workers with employment rights. The small independent union IWGB has been waging similar fights against the likes of Deliveroo for couriers who are also super-exploited.
On 18 September, GMB handed in a 100,000-strong petition to London City Hall calling on Transport for London (TfL) to force Uber to respect workers' rights or have their license revoked.
The unions should now demand that Uber be forced to compensate drivers who lose their jobs. Also, the mayor and London Assembly should put together and fund a package of assistance for the London Uber drivers to enable them to get other employment, whether as taxi drivers or in other sectors.
Given the cost of travelling around the capital, it's also understandable that some working class Londoners are concerned about the ban. Unions and communities need to fight for a fully integrated and publicly owned transport network in London with full trade union rights for workers on the same agreed pay rates and terms and conditions, and offering affordable prices and an efficient service for all.
Sadiq Khan must refuse to implement the massive budget cuts to TfL by linking together with London's transport unions in a united struggle against Tory austerity. The Uber drivers should be approached by the unions to be part of this struggle - and with the message that to secure decent work they need to be organised to fight super-exploitation by the likes of Uber and any other private operator with a licence.
The unions also point out that Uber's exploitative practices are a real threat to the safety of drivers and customers. Just four days before this petition was handed in, Unite members on London buses held a protest outside City Hall demanding a 'bill of rights' for the safety of passengers, public and bus workers to show that union organisation is the best protection for everyone.
Uber is already on the back foot, with its chief executive having been forced to issue an apology, saying that mistakes had been made and the company needs to change. Clearly not being able to operate in a major capital city would be a big blow for the company.