Thursday, 7 December 2017

Uber have an annus horribilis, as brand takes a bashing

Exploitation of workers, failing to abide by regulations in London, cover up of a major data breach and sexual harassment claims are just some of the features of the past year for beleaguered care hire company Uber

In the UK, the future of the car hire company has come under threat, as TFL refused to renew its license to operate in the capital. Uber were accused of a number of irregularities, including its approach to reporting serious criminal offences, its approach to how medical certificates are obtained and use of blocking software, stopping regulatory authorities getting full access to the app.

The company has begun an appeal in the courts.

Other towns are looking closely at what is happening in London and the operation of the company, with Brighton and Cambridge among those reviewing operations.

The company has also been seeking to defend its position as a main player in the gig economy. This has involved claiming that its drivers are self-employed, so not entitled to things like holidays and sick pay.

A tribunal ruled in favour of two drivers supported by the GMB, who claimed that they were effectively employees of the company. The company appealed the key tribunal ruling on worker’s rights but lost again in November at the high court. It is now looking to take its case Supreme Court.

There was more damaging news from the US, where Uber there have been revelations of a data breach and sexual harassment claims.

Uber admitted that it had failed to disclose a cyber-attack that exposed the data of some 57 million drivers and passengers. The breach affected 2.7 million individuals in the UK. The company then paid the hackers £75,000 not to release the stolen data.

The UK Information Commissioner’s Office said that Uber’s admission over the hack “raises huge concerns around its data protection policies and ethics.”

Also in the US, former Uber engineer, Susan Fowler alleged in a blog that she was sexually harassed at and experienced gender bias during her time at the company. She claimed that one manager propositioned her and asked for sex, but her complaints to HR were dismissed because the manager was a high performer. She said Uber continued to ignore her complaints to HR, and then her manager threatened to fire her for reporting things to HR

The New York Times then published further details of other abuses involving sexual harassment and drug use.

The company hired Eric Holder, former US attorney general, to lead an independent investigation, which saw more revelations and eventually 20 staff were fired.

In June, CEO and company founder Travis Kalanick stood down.

Further problems saw the Google self-driving-car group, now known as Waymo, accuse Uber of using stolen technology to advance its own autonomous-car development. The law suit, filed in the US District Court in San Francisco, claimed that a team of ex-Google engineers stole the company's design for the lidar laser sensor that allows self-driving cars to map the environment around them.

So it has truly been an “Annus Horribilis” for the car hire company, with its global reputation in the taters. The new management will certainly have their work cut out, not least the way it treats its workers, if next year doesn’t prove to be worse than this year.  

Published by Unionline

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