Gig economy “champion” Theresa May should keep out of Transport for London’s (TfL) decision to revoke taxi firm Uber’s license to operate and concentrate on preventing wide-spread labour exploitation, Unite said.
The union’s comments came after the Prime Minister said TfL’s banning of Uber – which received the backing of London mayor Sadiq Khan – on the grounds of “public safety and security implications” is “disproportionate”.
She told the BBC, “At a stroke of a pen, what the mayor has done is risked 40,000 jobs and of course … damaged the lives of those 3.5 million Uber users.
“Yes there are safety concerns and issues for Uber to address, but what I want to see is a level playing field between the private firms and our wonderful London taxis, our black cabs, our great national institution.
“I want to see a level playing field. I think a blanket ban is disproportionate.”
A spokesman for the mayor said May’s comments were misplaced.
He said, “Sadiq has every sympathy with customers and drivers of Uber, but is clear that any anger must be directed at Uber itself.
“Regulation is there for a reason and it would have been wrong for TfL to have renewed Uber’s licence if they had concerns about Uber being a fit and proper operator.”
TfL’s ruling on Uber last week highlighted four areas of concern, including its approach to conducting driver background checks and reporting crimes.
Uber will continue to operate in London while it appeals the decision and TfL sources have indicated that the firm could gain a new license if changes are made.
Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner said that “nobody wants to see people lose their jobs, businesses needlessly hindered or the pubic inconvenienced”.
However, Turner was clear that May’s intercession of behalf of Uber was nothing to do with the public interest.
He said, “It’s no surprise that Theresa May would champion a firm that denied its employees proper working rights by bogusly classifying them as self-employed.
“Nor is it a shock that the Tory ideology of deregulated trade at any cost – the consequences of which are reflected in Uber’s dismal record on passenger safety – filter through into her opinion on the TfL ruling.”
“The Prime Minister’s comments are deeply unhelpful and instead of taking a pop at Sadiq Khan she should demand the company makes the changes needed to abide by the legislation – because that’s the real issue here.”
Turner added, “Even better than that would be if she stayed out of the conversation entirely and concentrated on reigning in the exploitative gig economy that Uber and its like have used to line their own pockets at the expense of working people.”