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News, comment and advice on the UK taxi and private hire trades

Taxi driver fined after refusing to allow guide dogs in his cab

Posted by admin on November 24th, 2016

Source: Nottingham Post

A blind woman says she hates using taxis after her guide dog was refused entry by a cabbie who ended up with a legal bill of more than £1,000.

But Mel Griffiths keeps hiring vehicles and urges other blind people to do the same – while alerting councils of any trouble. She spoke after Nottingham magistrates heard how she was with two other blind people and two guide dogs when refused a lift by Romaios Pappas, 33, although they had told his firm about them.

Mrs Griffiths, 51, said: “Some taxi drivers will pick you up and try to make the journey unpleasant. They say they don’t like dogs, their other passengers might not like it or there may be dog hairs. “Some don’t know it’s the law and these things should not go unchallenged. If people let them get away with it, then they will. This is more prevalent than people may think and should always be reported. I hate using taxis for this reason,” added Mrs Griffiths, who lives in Arnold and is a volunteer for Guide Dogs for the Blind.

She said that other cabbies had refused access to her dog and the local council did not prosecute. She thanked Gedling Borough Council for bringing the case to court. The incident happened while she was with her six-year-old Labrador guide dog Hudson, her husband Gavin, 43, an audio production engineer and a friend Corie Stanfield, 50, a London university manager who had her guide dog Yarna.

The court heard that Pappas breached the Equality Act which insists that hackney carriage drivers must carry assistance dogs. He failed to attend the hearing and was found guilty in his absence. A £660 fine, £285 prosecution costs and a £66 government surcharge were ordered from Pappas of Honeysuckle Grove, Nuthall. He was given four weeks to pay or risk a visit from bailiffs.

Hannah Cash, prosecuting, said the incident happened when he arrived on Highbury Avenue on May 29 for an ordered journey. “The driver asked whether the dogs were travelling. The passengers confirmed they were and that they were guide dogs. They asked the driver to open the boot. He said he did not take dogs. The passengers advised him that it was illegal to refuse.” They asked if he had an exemption certificate, which can be granted to drivers who are allergic to dogs. He told them he did not need one.

The three phoned Trent Cars, who had taken the booking. The firm called Pappas who was said to be “arguing” with the manager on the phone. Mrs Cash said: “At this point, the taxi simply drove away. The passengers were left to wait on the pavement until another taxi turned up. They described it as leaving them ‘very angry, very helpless, very disappointing’.”

When questioned by council staff, Pappas said he had never picked up dogs before so had to contact the company. “He said there was tension with the passengers and decided to leave and that he was scared of dogs coming into his car. He said that when the company explained the situation he offered the passengers a free journey in the future but they did not take him up on the offer.

“He said he was not told he would be carrying guide dogs so he was not prepared. He got frustrated and so refused to take the job. “Trent Cars kept telling him he must take the passengers and their assistance dogs but he could not fit them all in because his car was too small,” added Mrs Cash.

Presiding magistrate Graham Roseblade, who sat with two colleagues, said: “We take a serious view of this matter. We are satisfied Trent Cars tried to persuade Mr Pappas to take this particular passenger and other passengers at the time. “Despite their persistent attempts to persuade Mr Pappas to take them, Mr Pappas refused to do so. On that basis, we find the matter to be particularly serious.”

Peter Shearstone, manager at DG Cars, which is linked to Trent Cars, said later: “He no longer works for this company, or any of our companies. He has not worked for the company for some months.”

Gedling councillor David Ellis, political lead for public protection, applauded the JPs’ sentence on the driver. He said: “It shows the magistrates have taken a serious view of the offence.” Cllr Ellis said the authority would continue to keep a close eye on any breaches of the rule, adding: “They have no excuse. Guide dogs are better trained than other dogs – that is why they are allowed in shops.

“Refusing to allow guide dogs in taxis stops blind people from being able to get about. We take the regulations very seriously and expect drivers to live up to their responsibilities,” he added.

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Uber drivers win key employment case

Posted by admin on October 28th, 2016

Source: BBC Online

Uber-v-Aslam and Farrar Tribunal Judgement

Uber drivers have won the right to be classed as workers rather than self-employed.

The ruling by a London employment tribunal means drivers for the ride-hailing app will be entitled to holiday pay, paid rest breaks and the national minimum wage. The GMB union described the decision as a “monumental victory” for some 40,000 drivers in England and Wales. Uber said it would appeal against the ruling that it had acted unlawfully. The San Francisco-based company had argued that its drivers were not employees but self-employed contractors.

The ruling accused Uber of “resorting in its documentation to fictions, twisted language and even brand new terminology”, adding: “The notion that Uber in London is a mosaic of 30,000 small businesses linked by a common ‘platform’ is to our mind faintly ridiculous.” “This is a monumental victory that will have a hugely positive impact on drivers,” said Maria Ludkin, legal director at the GMB, which brought the case.

The TUC said the case had exposed the “dark side” of the UK’s labour market. General secretary Frances O’Grady said: “For many workers the gig economy is a rigged economy, where bosses can get out of paying the minimum wage and providing basics like paid holidays and rest breaks.

“What is happening at Uber is just the tip of the iceberg. Lots of people are now trapped in insecure jobs, with low pay and no voice at work. We need the government to get tough on sham self-employment.”

Jo Bertram, Uber’s UK manager, said: “Tens of thousands of people in London drive with Uber precisely because they want to be self-employed and their own boss. “The overwhelming majority of drivers who use the Uber app want to keep the freedom and flexibility of being able to drive when and where they want. While the decision of this preliminary hearing only affects two people, we will be appealing it.”

Two drivers, James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam, argued that their actions were controlled by Uber, which meant they were employed by the firm – but that they did not have basic workers’ rights. Mr Farrar said his net earnings in August 2015 after expenses were £5.03 an hour. Mr Aslam no longer drives for Uber.

‘Ground-breaking’ decision

Nigel Mackay from law firm Leigh Day, which represented the two drivers, said: “This judgment acknowledges the central contribution that Uber’s drivers have made to Uber’s success by confirming that its drivers are not self-employed, but that they work for Uber as part of the company’s business.

“This is a ground-breaking decision. It will impact not just on the thousands of Uber drivers working in this country, but on all workers in the so-called gig economy whose employers wrongly classify them as self-employed and deny them the rights to which they are entitled.”

Martin Warren, partner and head of labour relations at Eversheds, said the ruling may not mean other cases brought by workers in the “on-demand economy” will have similar success. “Each case will depend on the specific terms and arrangements between the individual and the company they work for. Nevertheless other firms who rely heavily on the ‘on-demand’ freelance workforce will be watching cases like this keenly,” he said.

Alex Bearman, partner at Russell-Cooke solicitors, said Uber could look to meet any additional costs by increasing the percentage of each fare that it kept as commission: “It seems likely that this decision will be appealed and we may not see a final determination for some time to come.”

Uber drivers: for and against

Sahrab Shinwari from Hayes, west London, has driven for Uber for the past 18 months and welcomed the decision: “We used to do less hours and make more money. Business has gone down. We can’t work on minimum wage – we can’t maintain a car on that. Uber don’t provide us with a car. Holiday and sick pay is perfect, but the minimum wage isn’t.”

Steven Rowe, however, is disappointed: “I don’t see myself as being employed. I don’t see myself as a worker for Uber. I see myself as being my own boss, making my own decisions … It might be a success for two Uber drivers, but I think the vast majority of us will be really, really worried about whether Uber can run the really successful way they’ve operated in this country.”

A Department for Business spokesperson said: “We are keen to ensure our employment rules keep up to date to reflect new ways of working and that’s why the government has asked Matthew Taylor to conduct an independent review into modern working practices.”

Shadow business minister Jack Dromey told the BBC: “Uber are going to have to fundamentally rethink how they operate in this country.”

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Private hire taxi drivers praised by council chiefs for not breaking licensing rules

Posted by admin on October 19th, 2016

Source: Plymouth Herald

Council chiefs have praised local private hire drivers after a recent test purchase operation gave them a clean bill of health.

The test found 100 percent of Plymouth’s private hire drivers stopped during a recent test purchase operation passed.

The council revealed that over the past month two test purchase operations were carried out and of the 19 private hire drivers approached no unauthorised journeys were accepted. The taxi licensing team undertake regular test purchase operations to find out whether private hire drivers hold the correct licence to work and if they will accept passengers without a pre-booking, this is commonly known as “plying for hire.”

Councillor John Riley, cabinet member responsible for licensing said: “I’m really pleased with the results of our latest test purchase operations. We carry them out to make sure private hire drivers abide by the conditions of their licence.

“All private hire journeys must be pre-booked through their respective operator, pick-ups by private hire vehicles are not covered by the vehicle’s insurance, so this in turn puts passengers at risk. If passengers have problems the journey will not be recorded and the circumstances of any complaint are more difficult to investigate.”

Hackney carriage (Taxi) drivers can ‘ply for hire’ off the street or from the Council’s appointed taxi ranks situated throughout the city.

Councillor Riley said passengers were reminded that yellow door stickers were attached to the front doors of private hire vehicles which clearly state that the driver can only take pre-booked fares and they should not try to flag down a private hire vehicle. If they do, they are then not covered by the drivers’ insurance and passengers would be considered to have put themselves at risk.

Councillor Riley added: “I will soon be looking to engage with Private Hire drivers, Operators and Hackney Carriage drivers to seek to improve the taxi service available to Plymouth city residents and visitors alike. “Making a start with that process I would welcome observations, comments, opinions and experiences from the wider public as to the quality of taxi service currently available in the city, their views as customers are invaluable.”

The Taxi Licensing Team can be contacted on taxi.licensing@plymouth.gov.uk or 01752 304141.

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Met Pc sacked for ‘dishonesty’ in dodging cab fare after night out

Posted by admin on September 20th, 2016

Source: Standard

A Met Police constable who got into a drunken row with a minicab driver over a £24 fare has been sacked.

Nicola Elston, 30, was told her conviction for making off without paying the fare amounted to gross misconduct when she appeared before a disciplinary hearing.

The panel heard that Elston, who has served with the force for seven years, was branded “relentlessly dishonest” by a judge following a three-day trial at Southwark crown court. Michael Kirk, for the Met, said that on June 27 last year the Lambeth-based officer took a cab home to Croydon after a night drinking with colleagues but refused to pay the fare on arrival.

The panel was told she had a row with the driver, who claimed she punched him in the stomach. Elston was arrested hours later but told officers at her first interview that she was unable to recall the events of the night before. She was charged last September and during her trial in March claimed she left the fare in the cab before getting out. Elston was cleared of the assault charge but fined for the fare evasion.

She was called to the disciplinary hearing to answer allegations her behaviour breached the Met’s standards for professional behaviour concerning honesty and integrity.

James Southgate, of the Met Police Federation, told the panel that the conviction had “devastated” Elston. He added: “She must accept the court ruling but she disagrees with the outcome. She said she left the fare in the cab but the jury didn’t accept this. It did accept she did not assault the driver.

“She made a mistake. She accepts it, learned from it and the court has punished her for it. Please don’t take away this previously unblemished career.” Elston wore her Pc’s uniform for the hour-long hearing but did not speak.

Assistant Commissioner Helen King concluded that she breached standards of honesty, saying her conviction and comments by the judge meant she could no longer work for the Met. She added: “I must also consider the aggravating factors and what Londoners rightly expect from the force.”

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Uber launches legal action over new London taxi rules

Posted by admin on August 21st, 2016

Source: CityA.M

Uber has launched legal action against London’s transport regulator over new rules that threaten to limit its business in the capital, City A.M. can exclusively reveal.

The billion-dollar startup is seeking a judicial review to halt the introduction of new rules it claims are too strict.

Transport for London set out new regulations earlier this year after a wide-ranging consultation of the taxi and minicab industry following a long-standing feud between Uber and London’s black cab drivers.

The initial regulation was previously welcomed by Uber, but in recent months the details of the rules have become too onerous, Uber claims. Now, Uber is pursuing legal action over the matter, filing official papers with the courts this week after sending a so-called letter before action to TfL.

TfL said it would defend the legality of the new regulations. “We responded to Uber’s letter and will be robustly defending the legal proceedings brought by them in relation to the changes to private hire regulations,” a TfL spokesperson told City A.M. “These have been introduced to enhance public safety when using private hire services and we are determined to create a vibrant taxi and private hire market with space for all providers to flourish.”

Uber is challenging four of the new rules; requiring written English tests for drivers, having to locate its customer service call centre in London, requiring insurance that covers drivers when they are not working and having to alert TfL of changes to its business model or app.

It last week rallied customers to contact the mayor of London urging him to review the regulation while business leaders and entrepreneurs have also written to Sadiq Khan asking him to rethink the rules, raising concerns that the red tape could stifle innovation and London’s digital economy in the wake of Brexit.

It comes as the mayor promised to make new plans for the future of the taxi and minicab industry in the capital. A spokesperson for the mayor said: “Sadiq has asked his team to produce a comprehensive new strategy that will herald in a new era for the capital’s taxi and private hire trades.

“Further details will be released later this year of a plan that will deliver radical improvements for customers, a boost to safety, support for the taxi trade and further improve the quality of service offered by the private hire trade. There will also be a concerted effort to make London’s taxi fleet the greenest in the world.”

City Hall would not be drawn on whether this would include reviewing the new regulations, agreed under former mayor Boris Johnson. Tom Elvidge, general manager at Uber London, said: “This legal action is very much a last resort. We’re particularly disappointed that, after a lengthy consultation process with Transport for London, the goalposts have moved at the last minute and new rules are now being introduced that will be bad for both drivers and tech companies like Uber.”

London’s cabbies, who believe the new rules do not go far enough, have also backed Uber’s call for a rethink, indicating the black cab trade stood to gain from a more favourable outcome. The head of the London Taxi Drivers Association Steve McNamara on Monday said he was confident Khan would do “what’s right for London”.

Other minicab firms in the capital have backed the new regulation, however. Addison Lee chief executive Andy Boland said: “Having previously backed the proposals it’s hard to understand Uber’s resistance to implementation of these new regulations. The whole industry was fully involved in the consultation and there is a strong belief that they will benefit both passengers and drivers.”

Gett managing director for Europe Remo Gerber called Uber’s U-turn on the regulations “baffling”. “Frankly we’re surprised we’re wasting time on this. We should be focusing on the post Brexit needs of London, not minor operational details,” he said.

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GMB tests Uber ‘self-employed drivers’ claim at London tribunal

Posted by admin on July 24th, 2016

Source: The Register

UK union the GMB has brought two test cases to the Central London Employment Tribunal today to determine if Uber acted unlawfully by not providing its drivers with “basic workers’ rights”, such as holiday pay and a national minimum wage.

This is the first time that Uber’s claim that drivers are self-employed has been tested under UK law. The employment tribunal will also determine another 17 claims brought against the next generation cab firm.

Last year, GMB found that a union member who was an Uber driver received £5.03 an hour for the 234 hours he worked in August. After costs and fees were deducted, his net hourly pay was £1.47 below the national minimum wage. The driver paid £2.65 per hour to Uber.

Justin Bowden, National Secretary at GMB, said: Uber drivers face “very difficult working conditions and with cuts to fares we believe that some of our members are taking home less than the national minimum wage when you take into account the costs of running a car.

“GMB believes this could pose a safety risk to drivers, their passengers and other road users as some drivers are forced into working longer and longer hours in order to make ends meet, at the same time as being unable to take any paid holiday or have an entitlement to rest breaks that other workers have.”

“Uber’s defence is that it is just a technology company, not a taxi company, and that Uber drivers do not work for Uber but instead work for themselves as self-employed business men and women,” said Annie Powell, a lawyer from Leigh Day representing GMB.

“If Uber wishes to operate in this way, and to reap the substantial benefits, then it must acknowledge its responsibilities towards those drivers as workers,” Powell added. According to an International Business Times report cited by GMB, there are more than 30,000 Uber cabbies in London alone.

Uber has been taken to court numerous times before. This case joins a long list of other cases that question the legality behind its business.

The company service has been banned, partially banned or suspended in many countries including: South Korea, Thailand, Germany, Netherland, and cities in India, USA and Australia, over regulatory issues.

We have contacted Uber for comment. Jo Bertram, Regional General Manager, Uber UK, told us: “More than 30,000 people in London drive with our app and this case only involves a very small number. The main reason people choose to partner with Uber is so they can become their own boss, pick their own hours and work completely flexibly.

She claimed “two thirds of new partner drivers joining the Uber platform have been referred by another partner.”

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