Uber Taxi-Profiteers Welcomed to Leicester

Nothing surprises me anymore. Under Sir Peter Soulsby’s increasingly authoritarian influence, Leicester’s Labour Council are in the process of imposing a new rulebook upon our city’s black cabs.

Soulsby is defiant in his refusal to negotiate with the RMT, the union which represents Leicester’s taxi drivers.

On November 17, Soulsby explained to the Leicester Mercury that he “had held numerous meetings with the taxi drivers – including today”; but upon further questioning of the RMT it appears that these meetings are merely a figment of Soulsby’s imagination.

So despite the RMT calling off Monday’s protest, as a gesture of goodwill, it appears that no official negotiating meetings have, or seem likely, to be taking place in the near future.

Now, with impeccable timing, especially considering Soulsby’s ongoing efforts to malign Leicester’s taxi drivers, the city council “has confirmed it has granted Uber permission” to operate a rival taxi service in Leicester (November 18, Mercury).

Uber, for those who don’t know, is the controversial US company, whose activities are driven, or rather financed, by Google and private equity vultures like Goldman Sachs. And the introduction of Uber elsewhere, has already sparked determined protests by taxi drivers the world over.

Unlike a normal employer, Uber say that their global network of drivers’ are not employees but are independent contractors. These contractors can then use Uber’s app technology as long as they agree to give 20% of their fare to Uber.

But here’s the catch: Uber dictates the fares that drivers are permitted to charge per mile. So if rival firms offer too much competition, Uber can force their drivers to cut their fares.

For example, when Uber launched their operations in Los Angeles in May 2013, their drivers were initially allowed to charge customers a fare of $2.75 per mile;  a rate which in the face of competition was soon dropped to $1.10 per mile! Effectively meaning that Uber taxi drivers could barely make a living.

Uber drivers protest against working conditions outside the company's office in Santa Monica
George, 35, protests with other commercial drivers with the app-based, ride-sharing company Uber against working conditions outside the company’s office in Santa Monica, California June 24, 2014. REUTERS

Such blatant exploitation fomented protests across America, and Uber drivers were, against the odds, able to form their own union, the California App-based Drivers Association.

So the fact that Leicester’s Labour Council are now welcoming Uber to town is beyond belief, but not that surprising.

This letter was emailed to the Leicester Mercury on 17th November.

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