Uber is not as popular as you might think | Letters

On Friday Uber was stripped of its licence to operate in London due to repeated infractions of regulations around safety (Uber loses licence to operate in London, 23 September). This follows the long-standing concerns about how Uber operates – its dubious taxation arrangements, its corporate model (loss-making, then raising costs and reducing driver pay) and its non-recognition of any worker benefits (sick pay, contracts, holiday etc). The company will appeal anyway, meaning the service will continue potentially for months or potentially even years, irrespective of outcome.

The firm immediately took to the public petitions site Change.org, reproducing its own press release in the form of a petition to “Save your Uber in London”. Have I misunderstood the meaning of a public petition, or is a company producing a petition to protect its own profits something of a confused perversion of this long-standing mode of political participation?

Change.org allows advertisements by companies as long as they are “about public causes”, so they often take the form of petitions. The advertising revenue also allows them to “give the Change.org community an opportunity to provide grassroots support to a petition through promoted petitions”. If I understand this rightly, it means that if you offer them enough money, they’ll use email addresses gathered from genuine grassroots initiatives and will advertise Uber’s petition to as many of their 100 million users as you’d like them to.

Does it still make sense to talk about “public opinion”, a “public outcry” or the “grassroots” in a context where modes of political participation are manufactured as public relations exercises for companies seeking political and legislative advantage?
Luke Samuel
Manchester

Are there really 40,000 registered drivers on the Uber books in London and, if so, how many of them are full-time (Editorial, 23 September)? I very much doubt that anywhere near this figure could be achieved unless a very large number of people abandon buses and stop using their cars and fares rise to satisfy the drivers need for enough money to make it worthwhile.

You suggest that Uber has been a “lifeline” to people travelling long distances to work unsocial hours for low pay. Even at an “affordable” Uber fare of £15 I would suggest that Uber is unaffordable for such people – it is the equivalent of two hours’ work at minimum wage rates. The main user group will be more affluent people who resent paying black cab rates. Those who can afford neither black cabs nor Uber will be reliant primarily on public transport, mainly buses. If a large group of people use more expensive services, it will have the twin effect of causing more congestion and depleting the existing user base (hence the economic viability) of public transport in London.
Jo Lynch
Liskeard, Cornwall

US tech firms often proudly boast of their aim and ability to “disrupt” the existing order, as if this were automatically a good thing. Regrettably, their disruption is all too frequently thoughtless of any consequence other than to make a fast buck for themselves. Uber offers a dystopian vision of an unregulated, unsafe, unfair, unstable and uncaring future in which the vast majority of us scrape a living through low-paid work with zero employment rights. Its myopic and selfish users need to recognise this. TfL is right to remove Uber’s licence.
Steve Rouse
Gee Cross, Cheshire

Employees can be a company’s biggest asset in a crisis – but only if the employer has done enough to gain their support long before things go wrong. If accounts like James Atkinson’s are reflective of wider industry and employee opinion, airlines will have to move quickly to find a solution to this deep-rooted problem (Unless Ryanair treats pilots like me better, this crisis will be a long haul, 20 September).

This starts with an honest look at whether current scheduling practices are fair, sustainable and effective. A single delay affects not only the passengers booked on that service but subsequent ones too. Airlines can’t afford to let one mistake ripple across their network. Customer loyalty is one of the most important currencies and one cancellation can make it impossible to win back a passenger’s trust.

The right solution won’t just help management. It will also help employees achieve a better work-life balance. Data-driven scheduling gives control to employees with the ability to mark their preferences and availability. At the same time, data analytics can match supply with demand and anticipate any liabilities, such as an overwhelming build-up of leave. Empowering staff in this way will help create a positive work culture where employers and their staff work hand-in-hand to pre-empt and solve company issues.
Chris McCullough
Chief executive, Rotageek

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