Saturday, September 28, 2019

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez joins growing calls for taxi medallion bailout....Meanwhile, in London

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has joined the list of NYC elected officials calling for a bailout of the city’s debt-ridden taxi medallion owners.

Speaking at a House Financial Services committee hearing on small business loans Thursday, Ocasio-Cortez admonished city officials and federal regulators for allowing — and in some cases, encouraging — drivers to take high-priced loans that have since crippled them with debt.
“These taxi drivers need a bailout, because this is not just about predatory collection practices,” she said. “This is manufactured financial indentured servitude, and it is wrong.”
As recently at 2013, medallions were selling for $1.3 million at Taxi and Limousine Commission auctions. By last year, the price had plunged to less than $250,000 — with medallion owners still on the hook for their million-dollar loans.
Meanwhile, lenders walked away with tens of millions of dollars in profits, an investigation by the New York Times revealed in May. The city itself raked in over $855 million over 12 years from the transactions.
Taxi driver advocates aren’t seeking a bailout, but city-funded debt forgiveness, according to New York Taxi Workers Alliance Executive Director Bhairavi Desai, who testified at Thursday’s hearing.

The city should buy the medallion at the current prices — around $150,000 — and establish lending agreements with driver-owners at that rate, Desai said.
“Technically it’s not a bailout. It really is loan restructuring,” she told The Post. “Multiple players are responsible for this, but the city is the one with the means to effectively bring the owner drivers out of despair and lifelong poverty.”
Ocasio-Cortez, Desai said, “made it clear that the owner-drivers are not responsible for their predicament.”
The plight of taxi drivers caught the city’s attention after a spate of driver suicides in 2018.
In July, the freshman Bronx Democrat joined eight of her New York congressional colleagues calling for “much needed monetary assistance” for indebted medallion-owning drivers.
“Regulatory agencies knew, the city knew,” she said Thursday. “These suicides are not just an indirect side-effect, they are a direct consequence of the neglect of a vulnerable community in New York City.”


Meanwhile, here in London, let's just remember what happened to our ex Chancellor of the Exchequer


Friday, September 27, 2019

STATEMENT FROM UTAG Uber continues to regulate TfL. Another disgraceful decision!

As you will be aware TfL has given Uber London Ltd (ULL) a 2 months license extension; this decision is bizarre and totally unacceptable.

ULL is either fit to be given a 5-year license or not fit to continue operating.

Fit and Proper status is binary and not open to any other degree of interpretation.

This award of a further 2-month window in order to give ULL a third chance to ‘get their house in order’ is further testament to the reluctance of TfL to put public safety before all else.

Sadiq Khan has said ‘I’m not scared to take the big boys on’
In our opinion, he’s not scared but petrified. 

UTAG is the only group willing to fight for our trade.
TfL quoted, among other things ‘To ensure public safety’ in their lacklustre reasons for a very restricted license.

ULL has had 6 years and 8 months ‘to ensure public safety’. 

They have not satisfied our woefully inadequate regulator that the public is safe with them and yet TfL let them off the hook again.

When will this abdication of care stop?
After this wrong decision, UTAG was in contact with our legal team within minutes to seek guidance on an injunction to stop Uber operating until such time that the safety of passengers was beyond any doubt.

After seeking advice we remain ready and waiting for the decision in 2 months. Be assured we will take the correct action at the right time, including challenging any decision that is made.  Now is not the time.

We remain totally committed to holding TfL to account in court for the damage caused to our trade through inept and cowardly regulation that is seemingly biased in favour of a well-funded but unfit operator.

We shall keep you updated as things progress.

Once again we would like to thank each and every one of you for your unstinting support.

United Trade Action Group.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Let’s Not Forget, The Letter From A Met Police Inspector That Claimed Uber Failed To Report Sexual Assaults...or The TfL Staff Website Offering Discounted Uber Rides

A senior Met police officer has accused Uber of failing to report sex attacks on women by its drivers, with the omissions leading to a second assaults on different victims just months later.

Inspector Neil Billany, head of the Metropolitan police's taxi and private hire unit, wrote an explosive letter to Transport for London titled "Concerns with Uber not reporting serious crimes."

Liberal Democrat politician Caroline Pidgeon obtained the letter through a Freedom of Information request. It was first reported by The Sunday Times.

The letter deals with the fact that Uber reports selected crimes to Transport for London, but nothing to the police directly, potentially putting passengers in danger.

In the letter, Billany detailed how Uber failed to report a sexual assault to the police in January this year. According to his account, Uber spoke with the driver, who denied the offence, then did "nothing more." 
Then the driver struck again four months later, assaulting a different female passenger. 

Three days later, Uber fired the driver and only then informed Transport for London, which in turn told the police.

"Had Uber notified police after the first offence it would be right to assume that the second would have been prevented," he wrote.

He also said the female victims in both instances assumed Uber would contact the police about the cases, which it didn't.

"It is also worth noting that once Uber supplied police with the victim's details, both welcomed us contacting them and have fully assisted the police with the prosecutions," he said.

He added that Uber didn't automatically report serious crimes in case it breached passenger rights.!!!!

In another incident, an Uber driver terrified a passenger after getting into a "road rage" altercation with another driver. 

The Uber driver pulled what looked like a handgun from a the gloved box, and chased after the other vehicle. 

"At this point, the passenger ... fled the vehicle in fear," Billany wrote. It turned out the "handgun" was actually pepper spray, which is still classified as a firearm, he said.

He accused Uber of reporting only "low-level" fraud, but of not reporting more serious episodes because they might damage the company's reputation.

"My concern is two-fold," he wrote. "Firstly it seems they are deciding what to report (less serious matters / less damaging to reputation over serious offences) and secondly by not reporting to police promptly they are allowing situations to develop that clearly affect the safety and security of the public."

If this letter had been referring to Sid’s Cars from Sudbury Town, their licence to operate would have been immediately revoked. 

But this isn’t Sid’s... it’s Uber who -as we now know- are backed by the same investment bank (Black Rock) that holds TfL’s £4bn pension pot !

We must also remember that TfL have swept under their soiled carpet, the fact that 13,000 drivers were exposed to have fake DBS certificates. Only 2,600 were written to... meaning there are still well over 10,000 drivers out their picking up the public who are known by TfL to have fake criminal record checks (DBS).

Lets also not forget the conflict on interest were Uber offer TfL staff discounted Uber rides on the MyTFL website. 



Let’s also not forget the obligations of London operators.

PHV(L)A 1998 s4(1)
The holder of a London PHV operator’s licence (in this Act referred to as a "London PHV operator") shall not in London accept a private hire booking other than at an operating centre specified in his licence.


Today The Cabbies Do Kilimanjaro Boys Set Off To Tanzania For The Finale Of Their Challenge - Climbing Kilimanjaro!

Here's a message from the Chairman of the Taxi Charity For Military Veterans, Ian Parsons:

Dear John, Daren and Brian,

I saw you on ITV London News on Tuesday evening and noticed that like the No.1 contender about to fight for the world championship, you’re all looking lean and hungry and "Ready to Rumble".

You were once heavyweights, but your strict training regime, plus your determination and dedication to the task means you have dropped down several weight divisions since then and are ready to go the distance... Okay, let’s leave the boxing analogy there...

But in all seriousness, I wanted to send you our very best wishes for a safe and successful climb this weekend.

What you have already achieved is remarkable and I know your list of admirers reaches way beyond the London cab trade.

Your journey has been an inspiration to so many people and for that you deserve every congratulation.

I also want to thank you for all have done for our charity; raising funds as well as awareness about us.

We have just returned from an incredible trip to the Netherlands, where we took several Arnhem veterans back to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Arnhem.

The visit meant so much to the veterans and these trips are only possible because of the magnificent fundraising efforts of people like you.

Meanwhile, good luck with the final and most challenging leg of your journey.

Tread carefully.

Best wishes,

Ian Parsons
Taxi Charity for Military Veterans
(and all committee members)


Uber reportedly trains its investigators to protect the company before riders

Uber's Special Investigations Unit is trained to protect the company before passengers, the Washington Post's Greg Bensinger reported Wednesday.
Uber does not allow the SIU to report allegations against its drivers to police, a former investigator told the paper.
The 80-person team is forbidden from advising Uber riders who have been victims of its drivers to file police reports or seek legal counsel themselves, according to the same former investigator.
Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Uber's Special Investigations Unit is trained to protect the company before passengers, Greg Bensinger reported for the Washington Post on Wednesday.

According to the paper's interviews with more than 20 current and former investigators, the 80-person SIU team's job is to look into Uber rides that go wrong. Drivers who are accused of sexually harassing their passengers also fall under the unit's  jurisdiction.

Uber does not allow the SIU to report allegations against its drivers to police, according to former investigator Lilli Flores, the Post reported.

The SIU is also forbidden from advising Uber riders who have been victims of its drivers to file police reports or seek legal counsel themselves, also according to Flores, as reported by the Post.

Uber disputed the Post's characterization of its SIU, saying it "created the SIU team not to shelter us from legal liability, but to provide specialized customer support to riders and drivers dealing with very serious real-life situations."

"Characterising this team as anything but providing support to people after a difficult experience is just wrong," a company representative told the paper. "We will continue to put safety at the heart of everything we do and implement new approaches, based on expert guidance, to the benefit of both our customers and employees."

In the two years since Dara Khosrowshahi took over as chief executive from ousted founder Travis Kalanick, safety has become paramount. "Do the right thing, period" has since become the company's mantra. 

However, Wednesday's Washington Post investigation is far from the first time reports have painted a picture of disfunction inside Uber's special investigations unit.

In January, CNN obtained a 26-page memo prepared by an outside consultant for the company, which revealed that investigators — often plagued with heavy and emotional tasks — were working nearly 1,200 cases every single week. That same memo also warned of potential suicide among the negative health effects that members of the team could face. 

Uber has also added a number of safety features in recent months, including an in-app "panic button" that riders can use to call 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency. The feature is now available in more than 60 locations throughout North America, the company said in March. 

In September, the company launched "ride check" which will automatically trigger an alert to the company's safety team if a ride deviates from its expected course. If activated, both the rider and driver will receive a notification asking if everything is okay, and the safety team "may follow up by phone," Uber said

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

A Little Girl's Dream To Be Taken Shopping In A Pink London Taxi, Becomes A Reality.

Earlier this week, a call went out to drivers of the London Taxi trade on social media.
We were told that an extremely sick little girl, receiving treatment in Great Ormand Street Hospital, had let it be known that she desperately wanted to go shopping in London.... in a pink London taxi.

Posts went out to cabbies on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and a range of WhatsApp groups

Yesterday evening, we received news that Cabby Steve Jones has now arranged to borrow a pink cab and for himself to be her driver for the whole day out shopping. 
Also a big thank you must go to Carlos Oliveira, owner of the Pink Cab, for making this possible.

This Statement was made by the United Cabbies Group last night:
Huge thanks to Quotax Insurance for providing free insurance to our committee member Steve Jones tomorrow.

Steve has borrowed a Pink Taxi to fulfil the dream of a very sick little girl from GOSH who wants to go shopping in a pink cab.
Thanks to all who made this possible for her.

The London Taxi trade has always had a close relationship with Great Ormand Street Children's Hospital, but this is an amazing gesture from all involved. One little girl is going to experience a fantastic day out.

Don’t Think There’s A Conflict Of Interest Connection Between TfL And Uber.... Well, Think Again!

MQT on 2017-06-22
Session date: 
June 22, 2017
Question By: 
David Kurten
Asked Of: 
The Mayor

How much of the TfL Pension Fund is currently managed by the US investment management corporation Blackrock and is this appropriate and ethical, given TfL's responsibility for ensuring compliance with taxi and private hire legislation and Blackrock's £500 million stake in the transportation network company Uber?


Answered By: 
The Mayor
Tuesday, 27th June 2017
The TfL Pension Fund is governed by TfL Trustee Company Limited, which is a separate entity from TfL and is managed by its own board of directors known as trustees. The trustee directors have fiduciary responsibilities governing the way they are required to run the pension fund. 

The TfL Board, including the Mayor of London, has no direct control or decision making authority nor can it direct the activities of the TfL Pension Fund. This is a matter solely for the trustee directors.

The TfL Pension Fund has total assets in excess of £9.8 billion as at 31 March 2017, and has appointed, having taken expert advice from its own independent investment advisers, a total of 27 investment firms covering 35 individual investment mandates across all asset classes.

Blackrock Investment Management (UK) Limited (as at 31 March 2017) manage 5 individual mandates for the TfL Pension Fund, the total value of which as at 31 March 2017 was £4bn.

Image by Mirna Bourne

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Uber Granted Two-Month Extension To London Licence. Statements From TfL, LCDC, UTAG And Sadiq Khan.

Uber has today been granted a two month operators’ licence by Transport for London. 

This is the shortest operators licence ever issued. 

Conditions attached.
TfL have said:
"The short licence is to allow for scrutiny of additional information that we are requesting ahead of consideration of any potential further licensing application."

Uber’s General Manager Jamie Heywood responded by saying

"TfL’s recognition of our improved culture and governance reflects the progress we have made in London. 

"We will continue to work closely with TfL and provide any additional requested information."

He added: "Over the past two years, we’ve launched a range of new safety features in the app, introduced better protections for drivers and our Clean Air Plan is helping to tackle air pollution."

But granting Uber a two month temporary licence, has clearly shown the firm has failed their probation and are still a huge threat to public safety.

The terms of the probationary licence, Uber were supposed to improve its operations for the better. 
But they have continued to shirk their responsibilities. 

But by Granting this new shirt Licence We have been shown that both TfL and the Mayor can’t be trusted. 

Our wait for justice goes on. 


Just heard the news, unbelievably, Uber have been given a two month licence... WTF is that about.... they should of been revoked after contravention of their probationary period!

But, what did our trade do then???
And what will the trade do now???

Every driver should be heading to Blackfriars, to smash down Mike Brown's door and demand a face to face explanation. 

But they won’t 

Or better still, every driver should stop their engine in whatever road they’re in, lock up and walk away 

But they won’t 

Every driver should be removing their plates and Identifiers and slinging them back at TfL

But they won’t 

Why ? 
Because this trade is weak 

This trade has no real leadership

This trade has no representation worth having....and no backbone for a fight 

We’ve witnessed total hypocrisy today from TfL, one rule for Uber and a different rule for us!

This is unbelievable and should be challenged (but we know it won’t) 

Statement From London Cab Drivers Club:
TfL have been asked by LCDC’s legal team about the legality of Uber’s booking system and they (TfL) are saying they haven’t had details back yet from Uber.... that’s in 15 months!

Uber have now been given an extra 2 making 17 months to provide TfL with information and, Uber can continue to operate in this time...Yet Taxi drivers are told to surrender their licence if they cannot provide information within 28 Days

Has any other PH firm been given this type of Leniency???? 
We all know the answer to that......

This is TfLs letter to its "stakeholder customers" today. 

Dear Customer,

Transport for London has today (Tuesday 24 September) announced its decision to issue Uber London Limited (ULL) with a two-month private hire operator licence, ahead of consideration of any potential further licensing application. 

The two-month licence will have the same conditions that ULL has been subject to over the last 15 months, along with new conditions to ensure passenger safety. 

We are requesting additional material from ULL and this will help inform any future licensing decision.

Yours sincerely,

Transport for London

Let’s also remember that Uber investors are locked into their shares till November!!!

If TfL had refused Uber’s licence renewal, the share price would have collapsed. 

One of Uber’s biggest investor is Black Rock 
The very same Black Rock who handle TfL pension fund 💡

This stinks of a financial conflict of interest

I wonder how many UBER SEXUAL PREDATORS will have taken advantage of their lone female passengers after they’ve had a few glasses of wine 🍷 in 60 days???

TfL, putting money before public safety. 

Statement From The Unite Trade Action Group 

Statement on behalf of London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Basildon Council Determined To Overturn Uber’s Stranglehold On Taxi Trade

UBER’S "stranglehold" over Basildon could come to an end as council bosses plan to write to the controversial firm insisting it either withdraws from the area, or applies for a proper operator’s licence.

A host of Basildon-based Taxi and Private Hire firms have previously told the local media that Uber is eating into their business across the borough.

Basildon has seen a sharp increase in TfL registered Uber’s activities in the area over the last three years and as a result, the council’s licensing committee have met to discuss fears over Uber, and the best next steps to take.

As things stand, Uber drivers are licensed by ‘Transport for London’... meaning Basildon Council has little power to take action against drivers and to regulate Uber’s work in the borough.

A Basildon Taxi driver, who asked for his identity and the name of his company to be withheld, said: "It is excellent news that Basildon will be putting extra pressure on Uber.

"We all know that they are not up to scratch; they are not licensed by the council, no-one is really regulating them. We go through so much training and rigorous testing, and they rock up with a driver’s licence and a nice car and it’s all that easy."

Uber are currently on a probationary licence from TfL and by dispatching work to their drivers out of their licensed area, they are (again) in breach of that probation. TfL should be revoking their PH licence but instead, TfL are looking to reissue Uber with another short term licence.  

In the past, Direct Cars driver Martin Taylor told the local press "my earnings have dropped and I’m now working longer hours since Uber’s emergence in the borough".

But not everyone is convinced.
Basildon councillor Andrew Schrader has publicly spoken out in support of the firm, previously branding it "healthy competition" and part of the modern use of technology.

But surely ‘healthy competition doesn’t include the illegal practice of predator pricing, which appears to be Uber’s normal modus operandi. 

As a result of the meeting, last Wednesday, the council decided to write to Uber -as well as any other cab firm operating from outside the borough- and also write to the relevant secretary of state expressing concern.

A meeting will also take place between the council licensing committee, MPs and Basildon based taxi firms later this year, to discuss the issue.

Eyes from around the country will be on TfL’s announcement on the future of Uber’s London operation, later this week.