Uber is trying to tempt black cab drivers in London to work with the taxi app by waiving its 5 per cent service fee for a year.
The taxi technology company has been locked in a war of words with licenced taxi driver associations over the last few years. But now Uber has offered an “olive branch” to its black cab competitors.
Uber’s UK general manager Jo Bertram made the offer of charging no service fees to black cab drivers in a blog post.
“From today, black cab drivers will be able to use the taxi option on Uber’s app to connect to paying customers with zero service fee for the first 12 months,” she said.
“For Londoners it means they can order a traditional black cab at the push of a button and pay electronically through their phone, rather than worrying about cash.
“And for taxi drivers it’s a chance to get a fare when there are no passengers on the street or they’re waiting in a long queue at a rank.”
But Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA), quickly dismissed Uber’s proposal as being “another PR stunt”.
“With over 15,000 cabbies registered with specific taxi-hailing apps like Gett and Hailo, we would be amazed if any drivers decide to take up Uber's offer,” said McNamara.
Uber won a key battle last month against the traditional taxi trade when Transport for London (TFL) rejected proposals that would have imposed restrictions on private hire vehicles in the capital.
Traditional taxi firms have repeatedly claimed that Uber’s app is illegal because it acts like a taxi meter. But this claim was rejected in a high court ruling in October 2015 although the LTDA has sought to appeal against this decision.
Taxi drivers are set to launch their latest protest against Uber in central London on Wednesday (February 10) when union Unite said that more than 5,000 drivers would be taking part in the event in Whitehall from 14.30.
Unite’s Jim Kelly accused current London mayor Boris Johnson and Conservative mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith of having “seriously taken against the black taxi trade in London”.
“We feel that Uber exploits its drivers by using their self-employed status to extract maximum income from them which translates to those drivers working long hours,” he added.
“The reduction in safety for passengers because of the ‘light touch’ regime is to be deplored. It is a race-to-the bottom – when in 2016 we want the highest possible standards.”