UPHD launches emergency legal action to force government to introduce Covid-19 safety standards for Uber and other private hire operators
· UPHD calls on Matt Hancock to act after death of one Uber driver and serious illness of two others due to Covid-19. Deadline set for April 17
· Operators offer free or discounted travel to NHS staff but fail to implement basic precautions to reduce risk
· Department for Health, Department for Transport for London and other licensing authorities failing in their duty to protect drivers and the travelling public
· Corporate negligence on part of Uber and others regarding Covid-19 an inevitable consequence of government and regulatory failure to tackle industry wide problem of worker rights abuse
United Private Hire Drivers, the leading representative body for UK private hire drivers, has initiated legal challenge against central and local government failure to protect licensed private hire drivers and their passengers from Covid-19 infection. The organisation has launched an emergency Crowdjustice campaign to raise the funds necessary to apply for a judicial review at the High Court as soon as possible. https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/government-must-act-to-protect/
The action comes after one UPHD member lost his life to Covid-19 another two have become seriously ill. Ayub Akthar passed away last week due to complications relating to Covid-19. Abdurzak Hadi, became seriously ill but is now recovering. Mr. Hadi is one of the original claimants in the 2016 Employment Tribunal win against Uber which the company will now appeal to the Supreme Court in July this year.
For weeks, Uber and other private hire operators have promised to distribute sanitising fluids and personal protection equipment to drivers but have largely failed to do so. Industry efforts to manage risk responsibly have been woefully inadequate and amount to little more than lip service.
Transport for London and other licensing authorities have failed in their primary duty to protect passengers by not insisting upon separation distance requirements, personal protection equipment, detailed safety protocols and driver training. In contrast, the Dutch authorities have introduced emergency regulations to control the risk of Covid-19 infection in cabs by enforcing a 1.5 metre separation, mandatory use of personal protection equipment, sanitation routines and limiting service to one passenger at a time.
Private hire operators such as Uber and Addison Lee have targeted NHS staff with free and discounted journeys during this time of pandemic. Welcome as this may be, this presents significant mutual risk for passengers and drivers. We owe it to drivers and to our front line NHS staff to take regulatory action to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus in licensed private hire vehicles.
James Farrar, Chair of UPHD said:
In an industry rife with worker rights abuse, Uber cannot be trusted to self-regulate for the protection of drivers and passengers from Covid-19 infection. The government must act quickly to put appropriate controls in place and if they do not, we will take legal action. We are prepared to do whatever it takes to make sure no driver dies because of corporate greed and regulatory inaction.
Yaseen Aslam, General Secretary of UPHD said:
With 94% of the workforce identified as BAME, discrimination is a factor in the failure of the industry to adequately protect workers and in the failure of the government to regulate to ensure they do. How can it be that the government believes it is too dangerous for barbers to work but that its perfectly safe for minicab drivers to do so without any protection?
Simon Cox, Barrister, Doughty Street Chambers said:
Key workers and members of the public making necessary journeys need private hire drivers. The Health Secretary has made draconian regulations against shops and members of the public, to protect the right to life. But no regulations have been made against private hire operators like Uber. They operate without any laws requiring them to protect their passengers and drivers from Covid-19. The Government must urgently use its powers to regulate private hire operators.