Uber ‘is just heaping on the pressure’

Gatwick taxi drivers say no to Uber amid concerns for local economy

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Local taxi drivers will launch a campaign to call for action against the proliferation of London-based Uber vehicles in and around Gatwick and Crawley – which are causing hardship for local drivers whose livelihoods have already been badly hit by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Campaigners are holding a rally this Saturday (October 31) to call on Crawley Borough Council to step up pressure on Transport for London and Uber to limit the operations of London licensed vehicles in Sussex.

Campaigners are calling for a change in Uber’s ‘Geo Fence’ meaning Uber vehicles should only be able to receive requests from the Uber app in the region where the licencing authority is based.

Over 800 local taxi drivers have signed a petition demanding action to rein in the activities of London based Uber vehicles.  The issue has come to head as on October 31, Uber is ceasing its operation from a designated waiting area within the Beehive Lane industrial estate near Crawley. There is now a great deal of uncertainty about where hundreds of Uber vehicles will move to.

Local taxi and private hire drivers, who are concerned for their livelihoods and the local economy where Crawley faces 57 per cent unemployment, are speaking out.

“As taxi drivers we are embedded in the fabric of our communities,” commented one local taxi driver, Zak Ben said.

“From business professionals to school mums, there isn’t anyone we don’t pick up and we know our town is struggling right now. We can’t afford to allow a multinational to take much needed business out of our local economy, it’s not on.”

Another driver Dan Barnes agreed, adding, “Right now our industry is operating at around 30 per cent. Those drivers that aren’t working – aren’t earning! If people can’t work then they can’t spend any money. It’s that simple. How can our town recover from the pandemic if we are out of jobs? Uber working here is just heaping on the pressure.”

“Crawley’s economic dependence on Gatwick airport means the town is being badly affected by the Coronavirus crisis,” said Unite regional officer Jamie Major said.

“Local taxi and private hire drivers are launching a campaign to ensure Crawley Borough Council and other local councils pile the pressure on Transport for London and Uber to restrict London based Uber vehicles from picking up fares around Gatwick and Crawley. The drivers are calling for a fair and level playing field.

“It’s wrong for a giant multinational with a controversial track record to damage local employment.

“We urge the councils to take action to support the economy in and around Gatwick and Crawley,” added Major.

The protest will take place on Saturday 31 October from 1.00 pm at the Uber car park, Beehive Ring Road, RH6 OPB.

By Ciaran Naidoo

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