Open letter to Mayor Sadiq Khan and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick: TfL and Metropolitan Police failure to engage minicab drivers is a public safety opportunity squandered
Dear Mayor Khan and Commissioner Dick
cc. London Assembly Transport Committee
It is right that TfL,with your joint guidance, should consider Uber's record of handling of in cab crime incidents involving private hire drivers, either as victims or perpetrators. We would like to assure you, once again, that our membership absolutely abhors any kind of criminal offending by licensed drivers (or anyone else), especially sexual violence and abuse. In our industry, road safety and passenger safeguarding is job one and zero is the only number of occurrences we are prepared to accept.
We also recognise that transparency is absolutely essential to good safety and safeguarding management in any setting. We must learn from institutional failures of safeguarding in recent years that transparency and open reporting, at every level, is so important in crime prevention and reporting.
To this end, we remain deeply concerned about the continued failure of TfL and the Metropolitan Police to engage with any dedicated private hire driver representative body towards a common objective of improving public safety and safeguarding. You will be aware from our letter to you on December 6, 2016 that TfL and the Police have failed to take us up on multiple offers to engage our membership towards improving safeguarding awareness, sharing intelligence and raising standards of safety and security.
Last week, Inspector Neil Billany, Head of the Cab Enforcement Unit, abruptly cancelled a meeting with UPHD (the largest dedicated private hire trade union in London and the UK) officers and a separate appearance before our membership, citing recent press activity. At the time, the press was covering the terrorist incident involving a private hire driver at Buckingham Palace and coverage of Inspector Billany's letter to TfL outlining his concerns about Uber's failure to report sex crime.
We state here, on behalf of our membership, our strongest possible objection to any association being made between our trade union and any criminal offending including sexual violence and terrorism. And while the Met Police Cab Enforcement Unit has chosen, like TfL, to break off dialogue with private hire driver representatives, we note that the Met counter terrorism policing unit will be appearing to give a presentation at the LPHCA trade conference for minicab bosses. The message arising is unfortunate - the Police breaks off discussions with us working drivers but at the same time sends out the counter terrorism unit to speak to our bosses. Private hire driver trust has been needlessly squandered by TfL and the Police.
Unfortunately, drivers are frequently the victims of violent crime with 53% of our members working for Uber reporting they have been physically assaulted or threatened and 69% have been racially abused. Too often, they find reports to the police, TfL and the licensed operator are ignored or not taken seriously. In addition, passenger on passenger crime is a serious problem with ride share services such as UberPool.
In December 2015, TfL preempted the ongoing public consultation to give UberPool the green light saying that it had received assurances on safety and risk management from Uber. Despite FOI appeals through the ICO, TfL continues to refuse to disclose what due diligence it carried out and what assurances it got from Uber. TfL argued to the ICO that it needs a confidential 'safe space' to discuss such operational matters. Meanwhile, drivers and passengers have reported some very serious incidents including sexual violence to TfL, Uber and the Police. Our position is clear, when public safety is at stake, nobody should have the right to keep safety performance information secret and certainly not a public licensing authority.
Minicab drivers pay in 74% of TfL's taxi and private hire license revenue but are denied the right to directly represent themselves to the regulator and enforcement authorities. When we compare the efforts TfL and the police make to engage taxi drivers and operators the difference is striking. 120,000 minicab drivers, 80% of whom hail from London's ethnic minority communities, are refused engagement by TfL and the Met Cab Enforcement Unit. Yet, 23,000 taxi drivers, 80% of whom self report as white British, enjoy direct engagement with TfL and the Cab Enforcement Unit via 5 separate taxi driver representative bodies. Meanwhile, TfL extensively meets with private hire operators and even saw fit to sign an NDA with Uber. There is no doubt in our minds that the current engagement policy is discriminatory and the failure to engage is an opportunity lost to raise standards and improve public safety & security. Moreover, with up to 120,000 of us on the streets day and night, the Met police would have a willing partner in public safety if only it would engage.
Public safety in the publicly licensed transport system is everybody's job. UPHD members are ready, willing and able to do their part to improve the safety and security for drivers and passengers. We urge you to call on TfL and the Met Police to not assign collective guilt on all minicab drivers for the crimes of a few and to engage constructively with us towards a common goal of safety and security for all Londoners.
Chair, UPHD branch of the IWGB Union