Uber, the king of the gig economy wasteland, has lost its licence to operate in London.
The company, which claims 3.5 million Londoners use its app for a cheap taxi service around London, has been brought into line by Transport For London thanks to its poor corporate responsibility and its refusal to toe the party line with regards to proper regulation.
Although Uber has 21 days to appeal against the ruling — and will be in operation until that day — it is worth bearing in mind that the flagship app of the gig economy is finally getting the overhaul it so desperately needs.
Sure, Uber is convenient, and providing a safe, affordable transport option for women should be at the top of TfL’s agenda. But, as the saying goes, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
And we need to be looking at the people who will be paying the immediate price for the company’s demise — the Uber drivers.
We have seen the gig economy slowly unfurl over the past two years. While getting restaurant meals delivered to our door may feel not that dissimilar to ordering a takeaway, the likes of having a beautician arrive at our house to apply our makeup or give us a massage is a creeping oddity that has surged in popularity over the years.
Even in recent months, apps like PushDoctor are benefiting from the NHS starved lack of funding, and are employing a team of clinicians to assess your medical qualms online, without visiting a doctor.
Not only do these apps advocate insecure employment, they are simply dangerous for both client and user.
The gig economy sees employees working on an around-the-clock basis at a customer’s convenience on a zero hours contract.
The workers in question do not receive holiday pay, basic employment rights or even a secure platform of work. They have no protection against unfair dismissal, no right to redundancy payments, and no right to receive the national minimum wage, paid holiday or sickness pay.
They are trapped in a vicious cycle in which they have to simply meet the demand when people see fit.
This appears to be very much at odds with the rise in ethical consumption that is now supposedly on top of the middle-class agenda.
And those with the purchasing power have the ability to begin the end of vulnerable employment for those on a low, insecure income. But it means that we have to accept that some things shouldn’t be available at the swipe of an app.
While I am incredibly concerned for the Uber drivers whose employment is in flux after the company offered workers as the company sped into global fury, it is now the bubble has inevitably burst that we need to take a look at what reality faces the people who relied on the app for work.
And the only way to ensure that the drivers and workers in the gig economy alike have a more secure future is by allowing the likes of TfL and other governmental bodies interrogate the dire lack of regulations in insecure work.
Maybe a more ethical alternative will crop up in Uber’s place. Maybe, the company will finally respond to the fact that the sting has been removed from its tail.
But the real surcharge is the fact that we’re starting to think that products are more important than the people who deliver them.