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It’s time for the UK government to hear the plight of gig workers

31 45 15
26.11.2020

Abdi is a 40-year-old Somali man who came to the United Kingdom seeking asylum at the age of four. By the time the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Abdi had joined the ranks of London’s 100,000 plus minicab drivers – 94 percent of whom are people of colour – working for Uber and other app-based companies.

On a July afternoon, Abdi picked up three teenagers who had booked a ride with one of these companies. He regretted picking them up almost as soon as they got in the car. When one of the boys rolled a joint in the backseat and was about to start smoking it, Abdi asked him not to smoke in the car and offered to pull over so he could smoke outside. The boy got aggressive, shouting and swearing, and then pulled out a knife and tried to attack Abdi. Saved only by a thin plastic sheeting between the front and rear seats he had installed at his own expense to protect against COVID-19, Abdi rushed out of the car, locked the boys in and called the police. The boys escaped through a window and Abdi’s employer refused to cooperate with the police by providing details of the assailants. To add insult to injury, Abdi was not paid the full 23 pounds ($31) for the fare, only 9 pounds ($12) earned for transporting the boys from where he picked them up to where they jumped out of the window.

By any standard, driving a minicab in London is a dangerous job, but COVID-19 has made it lethal. Minicab drivers suffered one of the biggest increases in death rates of any profession in the UK during the first couple of months of the pandemic.

Drivers in the UK are trying to perform their high-risk job in a country ravaged not only by COVID-19 but also a severe lack of leadership. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government failed to prepare for the pandemic and provide healthcare workers with sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE). It also seems incapable, nine months into this........

© Al Jazeera


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