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Private-hire drivers launch crowdfund for judicial review of 'corporate negligence' over Covid-19

A FUNDRAISING campaign was launched by private-hire drivers today who are seeking to bring companies and authorities’ lack of safeguards against the Covid-19 pandemic to a judicial review.

Representative body United Private Hire Drivers (UPHD) has set up the Crowdjustice campaign, to last until next Friday, for £10,000 to pay for the High Court legal challenge.

UPHD accused private-hire companies and authorities — including Transport for London (TfL) and the Department for Transport — of “corporate negligence.”

Uber and Addison Lee have offered NHS staff free and discounted journeys during the coronavirus outbreak, which UPHD said was a welcome initiative but “presents significant mutual risk for passengers and drivers.

“We owe it to drivers and to our front-line NHS staff to take regulatory action to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus in licensed private-hire vehicles.”

UPHD said that Uber and Addison Lee “promised to distribute sanitising fluids and personal protection equipment to drivers but have largely failed to do so.”

It added: “Industry efforts to manage risk responsibly have been woefully inadequate and amount to little more than lip service.”

The union also accused TfL and other licensing authorities of failing to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for drivers, as well as detailed safety protocols and driver training.

UPHD pointed to Dutch authorities as an example of good practice, with a 1.5 metre separation between passengers and drivers, along with mandatory use of PPE and sanitation routines, and service limited to one passenger at a time.

The group called on Health Secretary Matt Hancock to take action after Uber driver Ayub Akthar died and two others fell seriously ill with the virus.

Uber driver and UPHD London committee chairman Abdurzak Hadi had himself become “seriously ill” with Covid-19 but is now recovering, the group reported.

Mr Hadi was one of the original claimants in a 2016 employment tribunal win against Uber which rejected the firm’s claim that its employees were self-employed — which the company is expected to appeal at the Supreme Court in July.

UPHD chairman James Farrar said: “In an industry rife with worker rights abuse, Uber cannot be trusted to self-regulate for the protection of drivers and passengers from Covid-19 infection.

“We are prepared to do whatever it takes to make sure no driver dies because of corporate greed and regulatory inaction.”

UPHD general secretary Yaseen Aslam said the lack of measures would overwhelmingly endanger those from BAME backgrounds as 94 per cent of drivers identify as black or of an ethnic minority.

To donate towards the fundraiser go to: crowdjustice.com/case/government-must-act-to-protect

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