American technology giant Uber may face stricter conditions on pay and workers rights after the Department for Transport promised to set up a working party to look at the leadership given to local authorities, ahead of a wider government investigation into the so-called ‘gig’ economy.
The pledge came after a Labour MP disputed in a Westminster debate that the rules surrounding licences were hard to understand and meant “it just takes a few – or at least one – transportation authority to say this is the interpretation”.
Frank Field, chair of the Commons select committee on work and pensions in the last Parliament, stated local authorities should set minimum requirements for new operators, as Uber was utilising the fact they had not to dodge paying its drivers a “decent living”.
Mr Field, who is competing for re-election to head the influential committee, alleged the San Francisco-based company of playing as a “destructive force for many people’s living standards”.
Transport Minister John Hayes said in reply he would be watching at the “guidance that is issued to local authorities who may be unaware of the extent of their powers, and certainly may be unaware of their ability to use them”.
“There are problems with different local authorities interpreting those powers in different ways, and it seems to be very important that we should give clarity about that through the advice that we offer to local authorities.”
The provisions on taxi licensing in the UK changed in 2015, to lift the condition specifying that drivers issued with private-hire licences had to go back to the local authority where they were given the permit between jobs.
“Uber and similar companies are registering we know in London, in Leeds, in Liverpool and Glasgow, and getting licences, as they have to, from the transport executive of those areas,” Mr Field said.
“Is it because the legislation is unsure, difficult to interpret, that these transport executives are not, in fact, saying these are the minimum conditions you the company must meet if you wish us to grant you a licence to operate in our area?”
The ruling to establish a working party gets ahead of the publication of a government report into the gig economy, which had been scheduled for announcement in June.
Speaking last month, Matthew Taylor, who is heading up the investigation, said the decision would recommend the Low Pay Commission, which recommends the Government on the National Living Wage and minimum wage, take a more notable role.
Mr Taylor said the paper would set out fair, legal differences on what “workers” are, currently belonging to employees and the self-employed categories.
Uber Technologies Inc. is an American technology group headquartered in San Francisco, California, United States, operating in 570 cities worldwide. It produces, markets and manages the Uber car transportation and food delivery mobile apps.