Uber drivers use apps that are supposed to geofence where they can and can’t operate. It’s come to light that for some reason, one of the apps used by drivers in Greater London includes Thurrock as well: Uber: Thurrock Council requests change to Greater London ‘geofence’.

Basically, this means any Greater London based drivers can come over the border into Thurrock looking for customers. Understandably, local taxi operators and drivers are less than happy about what they see as a direct threat to their livelihoods. There’s a suspicion that this is illegal. The issue was raised at a recent Thurrock Council meeting and they are looking into how this can be investigated.

The terms and conditions for Uber drivers are pretty dire and it’s not surprising that in order to get more custom, they end up engaging in practices such as plotting up in areas where there’s a question mark over whether they can legitimately operate there or not. That’s part and parcel of the explosion in the so called gig economy and precarious ‘self employment’. Uber drivers are pitted against each other and against long standing taxi operators and drivers. Forcing drivers into ruthless competition with each other is the ultimate in divide and rule.

However, a growing number of Uber drivers are refusing to accept divide and rule as the context they have to work in. Back in October, Uber drivers staged a number of strikes across the UK as part of a protest over pay and working conditions: Uber drivers stage UK strikes over pay and conditions.

There’s a real danger that the issue of the Uber Greater London geofence will pit the established taxi drivers against those using the Uber app. There are elements who have an interest in exploiting this division. Obviously we understand the fears established taxi operators and drivers in Thurrock have for the future of their livelihood and we support them in their bid to fight the threats they face. However, we would ask them to pause and think about ways they can start to work with drivers using the Uber app so pay and working conditions improve for everyone. Unity will reap more benefits than division.