I don’t know how to say this but it’s completely farcical that Uber wants to scrap an English language test in the UK which will prove that their drivers can communicate proficiently in the language of the country they are operating in.
The test is about 2 hours long and costs around £180.00 to take. Uber has thrown out their toys from their pram and is challenging this in court this week. Yes, a company that has managed to undercut the livelihoods of professional drivers such as the typical London black cab drivers, Addison Lee and the myriad of private hire vehicles on London’s roads. They have managed to undercut these professional drivers in many ways such as offering cheap rides that do not cover the real cost of the journey – the rider fare only cover around 40% of a ride. Uber burned through more than $2Million in 2016 alone using money from its venture capitalists to plug the gaps in the cheap fares they offer the public.
Just in the past few weeks, Uber has been accused of having a workplace that fosters a culture of misogyny along with stealing the blueprints from Google of a successful self-driving system – the list goes on.
So why would a company the size of Uber try to boycott a simple English test that proves their drivers are up to standard? This is very easy to answer and it all boils down to revenue for Uber who stand to be the biggest losers if the UK makes a stand and has the balls to stand up to CEO Travis Kalanick’s giant octopus. A lot of Uber’s accidents and disputes in the UK especially London, revolve around their drivers inability to speak the English language properly. Let me ask you; is it too much to ask that the so called professional driver that is taking you home after work, after a party or a trip to the pub can speak to you in English to be able to communicate properly and read the road signs? This is what Uber is contesting, they believe it is not necessary to be able to drive a customer from A to B. The horror stories you hear on a daily basis especially from London cab drivers on Twitter are enough to make your toes curl. Ubers driving down one way streets at high speed, parking willy nilly wherever it pleases them, taking customers on longer than usual trips either because they are “clever” or they have no idea how to read a Sat-Nav let alone navigate London’s streets! Just the other day, a customer was charged around £120.00 for a £15 journey. Apparently the customer was a bit tipsy and didn’t realise his friendly neighbourhood Uber driver took him on a 20 mile detour!
What’s worrying Uber is that it’s going to put a lot of people on the street, probably not because they won’t be able to drive a car and call themselves an Uber driver anymore but the fact that they (Uber) will be losing revenue – a lot of revenue.Uber doesn’t care about its drivers, do they? Not a chance, they provide you with an app and away you go. Uber would love the story to end there but a few drivers are contesting that they are not in fact autonomous and self-employed. As self employed workers, shouldn’t they have the right to fix their own tariffs? Uber fixes the tariffs and they also tell the drivers they are charging them a 20% fee or whatever it is now for the privilege! The fact that many of their drivers won’t make the cut and pass this test which also tests their ability to write an essay, is worrying Uber to the core.
It’s about time the customers had their say as well. We’ve all heard the horror stories of assaults and violence along with rapes, why do people still use this form of transport? Nobody would deny the good public a cheap ride home, but at what cost?
To give the ordinary man and woman in the street an insight as to what Uber has done to the London Taxi Trade, I will use the illustration of a lawyer who has graduated from University after 3 years and taken his final bar. He starts work, gets clients and with time and experience, opens his own practice.
Then some bright sparks in the government say “hold on, these guys are charging good money, how about if we bring in some alternative lawyers into the mix?” Now these lawyers have just done a few courses, are conversant with a few aspects of the law but charge less than half price of what a qualified lawyer charges who has been to University for 3 years, possibly 4.
At the end of the day, people who need lawyers just want any old lawyer, right? The client know that he’ll get the job done somehow, but quality doesn’t matter because it’s very cheap.
How do you think the lawyer, who has trained and studied hard to be the best in his profession feels when the government or whoever allows this “undermining of his trade” to take place?
Now think about our position as London Cab Drivers. They have also studied between 2 and 3 years, maybe a bit more, gained experience, bought taxis etc etc only to be undermined by Uber who possess none of what those guys and girls have gone through to become the best in their profession and are quite literally taking away what was at one time a very good living.
Fewer and fewer people are doing “The Knowledge” because of this – look at the figures. And who can blame them? Nobody in their right mind is going to give up 2-3 years of their life studying the knowledge knowing that the cab trade is in jeopardy and the rewards at the end of it are a paltry shadow of what they once were.
To let a company in and operate without paying their proper dues such as Starbucks, Facebook, Google et al smells of lots of money in brown envelopes being passed around after hearty dinners and suppers at expensive restaurants. How could a judge rule that Uber do not have a “taxi meter” when their app is clearly such is beyond comprehension (another envelope maybe?).
So to sum up, I hope this English test goes ahead and I think a paltry £180 quid is too small a price to make drivers pay to prove to the public that they can actually speak the language of this country. It may not get them to their destination safer, but at least the driver will know what his customer is saying to him and for me that’s half the battle won.
Be Lucky as the cab trade say!