Around one hundred private hire drivers gathered outside Leeds Town Hall on Friday afternoon to protest against the popular international taxi app Uber.
The firm is cutting minimum fares by 13 per cent in a bid to boost passenger numbers and dominate the huge market.
The consensus amongst cabbies protesting in Leeds was that they are over-worked, over-tired and underpaid.
James Farrar, co-founder of United Private Hire Drivers (UPHD), the largest trade body for private hire drivers, said: “Uber has cut fares to about 13-17 per cent at the top line. When that drops down to the bottom line that’s more like a 40 per cent drop in take home pay for drivers.
“Drivers are already working 50…70…even 90 hours a week and earning well below minimum wage so this is really going to hurt.
“We’ve come here today to ask Leeds City Council to step in and cap all private hire driver numbers and answer a very simple question.
“Does Uber remain fit and proper to hold a license in Leeds or is it only prepared to exploit drivers to this degree?
“If it’s prepared to compromise safety with drivers working over 90 hours a week, if it’s prepared to allow transactions for services delivered in Leeds to be recorded in the Netherlands so Uber pays less VAT but what VAT they do pay gets paid into the Netherlands’ treasury?
“So far we have had a good meeting with Councillor Mary Harland, John Mulcahy– head of the elections committee, and a meeting with MP Naz Shah of Bradford West.”
Mr Farrar continued: “The drivers understand that they need to be united and they need to be active, because Uber spends a quarter of a million pounds a month on political lobbying. Whilst they’re doing that, we’re busy serving their customers whilst they work against our needs. This is day one of taking back that agenda.
“We’re not anti-Uber, it’s a great platform and a great way of working and has given these drivers a lot of freedom but it’s just getting greedy. Uber could have decreased their commission but they’re taking 25 per cent.
“Uber wants to reduce prices, it’s their corporate strategy; they have to drive the prices of wages down and in doing that it also bleeds away passenger numbers and revenue from public transportation systems.”
The protestors said that Uber is putting the customers’ lives at a very high risk by drivers working ‘ridiculous hours without sleep’.
Mohammed Ansel has been working as taxi driver since 2001. He said: “We earn less than minimum wage. When Uber came, it was good at the start but then they started changing policies without any notice.
“My clear message to Uber is we are in Great Britain and we will fight for our rights.”
UPHD West Yorkshire Organiser, Nadeem Iqbal, said: “At the moment you can see a few people here at the town hall but soon a few thousand will be lining up.
“As drivers of West Yorkshire, we put Uber in power and we want them to do something for us now.
“The drivers here are tired and emotional. Fatigue kicks in and soon there will be fatalities on the road that involve a driver that has been overworked. We just want to make it safe for the community of Yorkshire.”
Max Lines from Uber said:
“We want the thousands of drivers who use our app to have more fare-paying passengers in their car for each hour on the road. That’s why, to encourage more people to use Uber to get from A to B, fares were reduced in West Yorkshire.
”It’s early days but the impact of the first couple of weeks of this change is really encouraging. Cheaper fares have seen more people using Uber to get around and the result is hourly payments for drivers have gone up by 2.5 per cent compared to the week before the price change.
“We believe these changes will continue to mean drivers are busier, but while the city adjusts to the new prices we have put in place minimum payment guarantees. Drivers using our app in Leeds are getting average payments of £12-13 an hour after Uber’s service fee. And, as we said at the outset, if the amount partner-drivers make on the road isn’t what we expect we’ll reassess this price change.
“Licensed private hire drivers who use our app are their own boss – they can choose when and where they drive and in Leeds are logged into the app for an average of 32 hours a week.
“Our door has been open every day for any partner-driver who wants to discuss this price change and will continue to be so.”