Saturday, May 19, 2018

Calls To Close 'Loophole' Allowing Minicab Drivers From Outside Winchester To Operate In City

TAXI drivers in Winchester are calling for an end to a loophole allowing Minicabs from other parts of the country to operate in the city.

Colin Smith, a registered Hackney taxi driver, says private hire drivers from Wolverhampton in the Midlands, are operating in Winchester, despite being licensed miles away in their home city.

Now Winchester City Council has revealed it is lobbying the government to change the law. 

In a letter to the council, Mr Smith said: “At the moment there are 15 or more Wolverhampton plated minicabs working in Winchester... Instead of applying to Winchester City Council (as they don’t think they can pass the relatively easy knowledge test), they bypass this and get a licence very easily at Wolverhampton, or even TfL where PH licenses are given out like sweets, they then can work (cross border) as a private hire worker.”

Mr Smith also raised concerns that these drivers don’t pay fees to the council, are not subject to safety spot checks and are taking work from struggling local cabbies.

A spokesman for the council (WCC) responded to the letter, saying: “The Deregulation Act 2015 enables private hire taxi operators to sub-contract their work to a driver licensed by another local authority subject to certain requirements. 

It's the private hire operators in Winchester that are taking advantage of this, actually sending drivers to become licensed by Wolverhampton City Council, and the drivers can then return to Winchester and work for these operators.

“WCC is writing to the government and to Wolverhampton City Council to explain that this current practice is detrimentally affecting our controls over the private hire fleet operating in the district.

“WCC is asking TFL (Transport for London) to join with them and lobby the Government to change the law but until this is done then our controls over the practice are limited.” (Good luck with that one)

However, a spokesman for Minicab firm Wintax, the oldest in the city, says that the real problem is the council’s “extremely hard” tests.

The spokesman told the Chronicle: “I myself currently do not have any of those [Wolverhampton licensed] drivers working with us. I still say if the likes of Uber are going to exploit the market then why not the take the same advantage as they did. It is all legal.

“The main issue in Winchester is the test has always been extremely hard for some unknown reason. All drivers from any council that has a legit PH plate and badge have paid for this and have had an enhanced DBS check at the least.”

He added: “I can not fault [Wolverhampton drivers] because they have just taken advantage of a loop hole that gives them more control. I agree there should be a balance but there has always been an imbalance in Winchester.”

Both Winchester and Wolverhampton city councils have been approached for comment but had not responded at the time of going to press.

In the past the city council has decided to let the market decide how many licensed PH vehicles should operate across the Winchester district. This has seen the number of Minicabs  greatly increase since the early 1990s.

Friday, May 18, 2018

PayPal agree to buy Swedish payments company iZettle for $2.2bn

As of yesterday morning, the Swedish payments company iZettle was all ready for an initial public offering that was expected to value it at more than $1bn. That went out the window last night, when the US giant PayPal announced it had agreed to buy the company for more than double that.

The $2.2bn deal is PayPal’s biggest acquisition to date, and will strengthen the Silicon Valley giant’s business in Europe, especially in the physical realm: iZettle deals in handheld card readers that connect to smartphones, allowing merchants to take transactions.

While both sides seem happy with the deal, in some quarters it could be seen as another example of a European start-up not having the stomach to compete with a US rival.

Despite the rise of ecommerce, the vast majority of transactions still occur offline, and iZettle’s star has risen as we move to a cashless and contactless economy: its revenues increased by 51% last year. Anecdotally, its card readers are much more visible at the burger vans and market stalls and can also be found in many of London 's Black Cabs.

To PayPal, however, the business will give it much more of a foothold outside of the US: iZettle is mainly big in Europe and South America. The deal also comes at a time when rival payments group Square is moving outside of America.

There is another angle to this deal, however: the potential feeling that, once again, a Silicon Valley giant has absorbed one of Europe’s top technology start-ups - and one that could one day be a competitor. Sales of many British tech companies have been seen as surrenders, rather than victories. 

Critics, however, could pay heed to PayPal’s own story. The company was sold to eBay for $1.5bn in 2002, and was since spun off and is now worth more than $90bn. What’s more, the original investors in the company became the “PayPal mafia”, a group including Elon Musk, Peter Thiel and Reid Hoffman that funded many of today’s most successful tech companies. 

Perhaps what Europe needs rather than protecting its start-ups, is more investors willing to back them to the end. Maybe in a few years, the iZettle mafia will become a force in European tech

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Uber Talk About It All Going Wrong At Brighton Conference

A top Uber executive is to talk about “what happens when it goes really, really wrong” at a Brighton conference – just weeks after the multinational taxi hailing app company was refused a renewal of its licence here.

Uber’s head of cities, south and east of England Eugenie Teasley is giving the keynote speech at Wired Sussex’s Talent 2018 festival next month.

It’s not known what exactly she’ll be talking about – but Uber’s recent history will give her plenty of PR disasters to choose from.

The loss of its Brighton and Hove licence (pending appeal) followed the loss of its licence in London and York. Brighton and Hove City Council said they did not consider Uber “fit and proper”, flagging a 2017 data breach, the use of drivers from outside the city and accusing the company of misleading councillors.

Transport for London raised concerns about Uber’s corporate responsibility, in particular over safety checks and failure to report serious criminal offences. An appeal hearing is due next month.

Uber is also battling an employment tribunal ruling that its drivers should be considered employees, rather than independent contractors, which means the company would need to pay them minimum wage, holiday and sickness pay – and has also just lost a test case in the EU which makes it more likely it will be liable for VAT in the UK.

It is currently embroiled in a scandal over scores of US drivers being accused of sex attacks – and has only just dropped a requirement for victims to enter into mandatory arbitration and sign confidentiality agreements. A class-action suit from women who were sexually assaulted by drivers is pending in court.

After hundreds of rapes and sexual assaults over the last six years, Uber expect to just say sorry and move on as if they never happened ???

Last year, 20 Uber employees were fired over claims of sexual harassment following an expose by a former female software engineer, a scandal which claimed the scalp of chief executive and co-founder Travis Kalanick, who was accused of not doing enough to address the issue.

The same month, an Uber executive in India was fired after improperly obtaining the medical records of a woman who was raped by one of the company’s drivers. This week, the executive announced he was suing the company for wrongful dismissal, accusing a number of executives – all women – of targeting him.

Ms Teasley is due to speak on Wednesday, 6 June at the Sallis Benney Theatre. Other speakers due to join her include Claire Hopkins of Ideal Networks, Tom Chute from Pragmatic, Caroline Walmsley of Further my Future, Ed Hickey of DabApps, Chris Ricketts of Turn10 Consulting, Rob Verheul of Graphite Digital, Mariam Crichton of Every1 Mobile and Helen W. Kennedy from the University of Brighton

The previous day, a jobs fair is being held at the Brighton Dome from 11am to 4pm, featuring dozens of local employers, with talks from Clearleft, Legal & General, Propellernet, Think Nation, Brightwave, Ocasta, Dabapps, Wired Sussex and Hare Digital

And on Thursday, a portfolio clinic will be held at the Sallis Benney Theatre.

Phil Jones, managing director of Wired Sussex said: “As a regional digital cluster our goal should be nothing less than being the best place in the UK to attract and nurture the talent we need to grow and thrive. Talent2018 demonstrates how we can make that a reality when we work together.”

Richard Dixon, head of digital development, Legal & General said: “We are excited to sponsor Talent2018 and show off L&G’s Brighton digital delivery team! If you care about technology, agile, web security and accessibility, and enjoying what you do, we have a home for you.”

Ed Hickey, commercial director, DabApps said: “Brighton’s digital sector and community continues to thrive. Attracting and retaining the best people is key to all of our future success.

“As a local employer and an active member of this community we are proud to be involved in an event that engages, and focuses on, the next generation.”

Comment:  It's about time  that everyone wakes up and realises that there is a massive difference between 'Technology' and actually delivering a compliant public transport service that hasn't had its goal to change legislation and local control of the taxi/ph trade the better.


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Minicab Driver Yaseen Aslam Takes Uber On In Court An Wins....Twice

Isn’t it amazing, that a humble PH driver can take Uber to court and win not once but twice 

Yet our largest org, with allegedly half the trade as members and an advertised  £1m war chest, wants to wait till Uber are relicensed before they even think about taking action of any sort !!!

LONDON: A British-Pakistani private hire driver who took the taxi giant Uber to court and won has said he is “humbled” and thankful that he was able to take on the world’s largest minicab firm.

Yaseen Aslam, from High Wycombe, was one of the two drivers who brought an employment case against Uber on behalf of a group of 19 of its workers, who argued they were employed as limb workers by the firm rather than being self-employed.

In an interview with this correspondent, Yaseen Aslam, whose parents migrated from Azad Kashmir’s District Mirpur to Britain as a labourer from Pakistan, said he took up the case against Uber with the help from his trade union -- IWGB trade union which represents the precarious low paid workers who had faith in him and provided him offer of legal team against the multi-billion dollars taxi giant, which employed over a dozen team of most expensive lawyers.

Aslam said he was glad that a landmark case against the taxi giant has been won twice and although Uber has appealed against the original decision yet he is “confident” that judges will rule in favour of Uber drivers.

Yaseen and James Farrar, who are the founders of the United Private Hire Drivers which is the UK’s largest trade union for drivers, first brought the case against Uber to the employment tribunal in 2015 and won where the judge ruled that Uber drivers, part of the so-called gig economy, are not self-employed and should be granted basic employment rights such as being paid the national minimum wage and getting holiday pay. The first tribunal trial was in July 2016 and the verdict was announced in October 2016. Uber appealed to EAT and trial was conducted in September 2017 and got in verdict Nov 2017. Uber then appealed to the Supreme Court in December 2017 which was rejected in January 2018. Now a date has been set at the Court of Appeal in October 2018.

Uber appealed the tribunal decision and took the case to Employment Appeal Tribunal decision where Yaseen Aslam and his colleague meaning the case could end up in the Supreme Court next year but Yaseen Aslam and his colleagues are confident that it’s too late for the Uber.

Following the verdict Uber appealed to the Supreme Court to hear this case but the Supreme Court rejected Uber’s request, and sent it back to court of appeal. Court of appeal has issued a date for 30 October 2018 for the trial.

Uber has told the court that it could deprive riders of the “personal flexibility they value”. It claims that the majority of its drivers prefer their existing employment status but the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB), which backed the appeal, said drivers will still be able to enjoy the freedoms of self-employment – such as flexibility in choosing shifts – even if they have worker status.

The union said the decision showed companies in the gig economy – which involves people on flexible working patterns with irregular shifts and minimal employment rights – have been choosing to “deprive workers of their rights”.

Yaseen Aslam said it is time for the Mayor of London, Transport for London and the government to step up and use their leverage to defend worker rights rather than turn a blind eye to sweatshop conditions.

He said: “If Uber are successful in having this business model, obliterating industrial relations as we know them in the UK, then I can guarantee you on every high street, in retail, fast food, any industry you like, the same thing will go on.”

Yaseen Aslam said he was willing to fight the case all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. He said the two legal victories are good for workers and the judge has confirmed twice that Uber is unlawfully denying our rights.

He said: “It’s about making sure workers across the UK are protected. Companies are hiding behind technology, bogusly classifying people as self-employed so they can get away from paying minimum wage. That can’t be allowed to happen.”

Yaseen Aslam got so entangled in his legal fight with Uber that he was hounded by the giant and he had to even approach the police. Fed up with the Uber, he quit his job and now works as an IT consultant for the Ministry of Defence. He divides his week between working for the Defence Ministry and dedicating himself to the union activities, leading private hire drivers in activism against the Transport for London and Uber, demanding rights for private hire drivers. “We have won because of union and unity and I will continue to be a unionist for myself and others. We have a duty towards others,” said a resolute Yaseen Aslam.