your knowledge and understanding of key concepts and ideas covered in Block 3 of B207
your knowledge and understanding of the elements required to build long-term success in organisations
your ability to find and interpret additional information online
your ability to use academic and business and management language appropriately and effectively to communicate your ideas
good academic practice in citing sources of information appropriately
your ability to select information from a case study, and develop arguments based on that selection
your ability to apply module ideas to a practical situation as presented in a case study.
TMA 03 is made up of three parts: Part A, Part B and Part C. You need to complete all parts of the assignment.
Part A: Case study Uber and London taxis
Part A of this TMA will be marked out of 75 marks. Your answer to this question should be no more than 1600 words.
In your work on Block 3 you encountered Uber and Londons black cab industry, most notably in Session 13, Activity 13.6. Listen again to the audio in that activity. It investigates threats to the traditional taxi business and asks whether black cabs can respond to competition enabled by new technologies or whether theyll go the way of the red telephone box.
When you have listened to the audio return here and read the case study below, and then answer the following questions:
Using stakeholder analysis, analyse the power and level of interest of the relevant stakeholders involved in running and regulating the London taxi business. Uber are often accused of ignoring employee rights and employee welfare. How might Uber management address their employees concerns? (25 marks)
Apply the quality gaps model to the Uber service. Which quality gaps do you see as most important (if any)? (25 marks)
Identify the factors which could be potentially damaging to Ubers corporate reputation or brand. Using appropriate concepts, recommend how Uber can prevent these issues from developing into a crisis for the organisation. (25 marks)
Technological challenges in the taxi industry
Uber is a technology company that offers a free programme, or app, available on a mobile device for those wishing to request a ride. At its core, Uber seeks to match passengers to drivers. The platform is able to track a users GPS coordinates, even if the user does not know where they are, and within minutes an Uber driver will arrive. The user is able to track how long until the ride will pick them up and receives a text message confirming when the Uber driver is arriving. The driver is able to hit a button on their own app that says Arriving now which sends the text message. No cash is exchanged when using Uber since signing up for an account requires providing credit card information. After the ride, Uber charges the user electronically and immediately emails them a receipt. There is a rating system so that passengers can rate their driver and vice versa (Dong et al, 2014).
According to Uber, the company pushes the limits of the transportation industry to create a simple, more efficient, and more enjoyable car service experience. For drivers, Uber is a revenue stream, allowing professional drivers to make more money by turning downtime into profits. (Uber, 2016). Unlike the taxi industry, Uber does not employ or license its drivers, but rather views them as independent contractors. The unique experience provided by Uber has enabled rapid growth and international expansion centred on three main focal points: a commitment to on-demand service, an efficient supply of luxurious rides, and the easy accessibility of its smartphone application.
Ubers growth over the past five years is an example of a major success in what is known as the sharing economy. The sharing economy is an economic system where assets or services are shared between private individuals either free or for a fee, typically by means of the internet. However, the success of this new business model is attracting criticism from government and civic leaders concerned that this new collaborative economy is simply a means of sidestepping regulations, taxes and other legal obligations. These gig economy apps have been criticised for failing to provide traditional employee rights such as paid holidays and in-work insurance.
The size of the UK taxi and private hire market is estimated at 9.4 billion. The industry is mature, with high levels of revenue volatility, technological changes, and high competition with low barriers to entry (Skok & Baker, 2019). In London, Ubers growing popularity meant that their drivers completed some 115m of business within London (Quinn, 2016). However, Uber London (the taxi apps UK holding company) recorded only a sales take of 23m and a profit before tax of 1.83m. The sales figure reflects only Ubers share of fares for trips booked on its app. In addition, Uber London retain 20% of any fare to the driver. Despite this Uber London paid just the small sum of 411,000 in UK tax last year.
Concerns have also been raised over driver working conditions, particularly regarding claims that some drivers are doing excessive and unsafe hours.
Some Uber drivers are working up to 21 hours a day to make ends meet as the company increases its cut of fares and fights a ruling giving them employment rights. Drivers in London interviewed by The Sunday Times told of regularly working hours that Uber itself describes as unsafe. The newspaper has seen official Uber documentation proving one of the men worked a 91-hour week. The disclosures come as new figures show a dramatic rise in casualties involving taxis and private hire vehicles in London.
In interviews with 12 Uber drivers waiting at Heathrow, three admitted working 16 hours or more a day. Tom, from High Wycombe, said: On average every day [I work] 14 hours, and 16 is top whack. I had a colleague last week who said he had worked 19 hours. I know people who even sleep in the car, and they go crazy I can start at six oclock in the morning and finish the following day at maybe two oclock, three oclock, a 20 or 21-hour day.
A second driver, Peter, said: Recently, Uber cut rates per mile by 25%. Now Im having to work longer and longer hours in order to pay my rent. I want people to know how powerless you feel when your income comes from a faceless app and when you open it up one morning, things are just different and youre earning less money and theres no boss you can talk to, you werent told about it, you just see your income is lower today and you just have to deal with it. A third Uber driver, Khaled, said We need to speak the truth. I work 70-80 hours a week and weekends its 14-16 hours a day. There are plenty of days where, minus petrol, I make less than minimum wage. Its very, very stressful but I dont have a choice. I feel like Im a slave; we work like slaves for this company. I wish I knew what I know now earlier, he said. I was blindsided. If I knew about the expenses, just how expensive it is to do this gig, then I wouldnt have gone into it in the first place. The legal limit for a bus or lorry driver is 56 hours a week.
Another Uber driver, Razak, said: Once Uber got control of the market, they changed in the worst ways. When I started I made 80% of the fees from my fares with 20% going to Uber. Now they are charging anything they want, sometimes taking as much as 60%. All drivers are asking for is fair pay, and thats what Uber wont give to us. They are not willing to be transparent. They are willing to change the logo, they are willing to advertise, to spend millions on lobbying, but they are not willing to pay the drivers fairly. Uber treats drivers as just something they have to deal with until technology for autonomous cars gets to the point where they can eliminate drivers all together. They dont listen to us. Three other drivers could not be interviewed because they were asleep in their cars. One had installed curtains in the vehicle.
Figures published in 2016 by the London transport regulator, Transport for London (TfL), show there has been a 26% rise in casualties among taxi and minicab passengers during the previous year. The number of passengers killed or seriously injured rose from 13 to 20, a 54% rise.
However, Uber UK said it had no plans to limit driver hours. In London, for new drivers, it has increased the cut it takes on fares from 20% to 25%, forcing them to drive for longer to earn the same money.
The company suffered a blow in 2017 when an employment tribunal ruled that Uber drivers were not self-employed, and were entitled to holiday pay, pensions and other workers rights. In 2018 it appealed against this ruling but lost. The Appeal Court judges found there was a high degree of fiction in the wording of the standard agreement between Uber and its drivers. The judgement went on to state that For Uber to be stating to its statutory regulator that it is operating a private hire vehicle service in London and is a fit and proper person to do so, while at the same time arguing in this litigation that it is merely an affiliate of a Dutch-registered company which licenses tens of thousands of proprietors of small businesses to use its software, contributes to the air of contrivance and artificiality which pervades Ubers case. (Butler, 2018). Uber is appealing this latest judgement.
Steve Garelick, of the professional drivers branch of the GMB union, said: Through the app, Uber knows precisely how long everyone has been available. It and other operators could stop this overnight if they wanted to. Theyve made the effort to limit hours in New York, so whats wrong with London? Tom Elvidge, general manager of Uber London, said that three-quarters of Uber drivers in the capital were logged in to the app for less than 40 hours a week. We regularly advise drivers to take rest breaks he said. We take this issue very seriously and are always looking into ways to improve the overall safety of the app.
Uber London actively resists attempts by TfL or other government agencies to bring in any regulation of its services, or to bring its service into line with the historic business practices of Londons historic black cabs. The European Parliament has approved new minimum rights for workers in gig economy jobs, including Uber drivers. Under the European Union (EU) regulations, casualised employees across Europe will have a right to compensation from their bosses for last-minute cancellation of work, mandatory training will have to be provided free of charge, and exclusivity clauses that ban workers from taking other jobs will also be banned. The UK could end up following EU rules at this point if the Brexit transition period is extended, meaning the rights could apply to workers in the UK. However, if the UK leaves the EU earlier, employees will not benefit from the rules and will probably be exposed to harsher employment conditions (Stone, 2019).
In 2017, Uber was rocked by a former employees devastating assessment of her time working at the company. She detailed several instances of sexual harassment and a culture that did not welcome women. In response, Uber launched an investigation involving more than 100 listening sessions across the company. The report concluded that The focus of the company had been on the business and not the employees and that the atmosphere at the company had created a cult of the individual (Lee, 2017).
Londons taxis are responding to the technological challenges presented by Uber, and TfL announced last year that all black cabs in London would be required to take credit cards and contactless payments from October 2016.
Groups representing taxi drivers said the decision by TfL would benefit both drivers and customers. The move by TfLs board followed a consultation in which it received support from 86% of respondents.
Every black cab taking cards is fantastic news for London. In future, when you hail a cab you can be sure that you can pay the way you like card, contactless or cash. That is without doubt better for our customers and for drivers who will benefit from extra work, said Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association.
The move towards mandatory card payments in black cabs is part of wider changes by Londons 22,500 cabbies in rising to the challenge from Uber. For example, some black-cab operators are fighting back with smartphone apps of their own, such as Hailo and Gett. Gett offers discounts on metered fares for journeys of six miles or more and those made in off-peak hours. Hailo allows Londoners to get a taxi through their smartphone.
Remo Gerber, chief executive of Gett UK, said: This is another strong sign of how the London black cab trade is embracing the future; not only have cabbies embraced apps, but everyone is behind making card payments universally accepted and by that making all journeys easier for Londoners.
The firms application for a new licence in London was rejected in September 2017 on the basis that the company is not a fit and proper private car hire operator. At an appeal, a court decided Uber should be awarded a 15-month probationary licence to operate in London after the ride-hailing service promised improvements. In May 2019, Uber completed the significant landmark of floating on the New York stock exchange at a staggering valuation of $91 billion.
(Source: Adapted by Matt Hinton, 2019)
Part B: Block 3 mind map
Part B of this TMA will be marked out of 15 marks.
Create a mind map showing how the main themes and concepts from Block 3, Long-term success, relate to each other. Your mind map should bring together the main themes and concepts that explore how organisations build long-term success. Your mind map should be no more than 250 words.
Part C: Demonstrating your skills and knowledge development
Part C of this TMA will be marked out of 10 marks.
Attach one of your answers to one of the activities in Block 3 and write a short commentary in no more than 150 words explaining how it would demonstrate to an employer your improved skills and/or knowledge of business and management.
Note that your answer to the Block 3 activity does not count towards the word count for Part C, but your commentary on it does.
In Sessions 2 of Block 3 you encountered the concept of stakeholder analysis, as a key part of analysing the political context. In particular, Activity 2.1 and Reading 4 discussed some of the theory supporting stakeholder analysis and gave you the opportunity to undertake a practice exercise. The stakeholder analysis framework shown in Reading 4 Figure 1 may help with your answer.
The second part of Question 1 requires you to look at some of the employee relations issues that are taking place at Uber. Block 3, Session 4, introduced you to the idea of inclusive and participatory employment relations. In particular, Reading 6 discussed the importance of employee voice and why voice matters in modern organisations. Block 3, Session 5, discusses the issues of flexible working and employee empowerment. Activity 5.1 looks at the importance of involving employees and suggests ways this might be achieved. Your answer should draw on appropriate concepts and theories from Block 3 together with suitable evidence from the case study to support your arguments.
This question asks you to consider the case study from an operations management perspective. In working through Block 3, Session 9, and the associated readings, you considered in detail the importance of quality and its role in system improvement. The session also introduced you to a range of useful concepts and theories that examine how quality might be monitored and controlled. You encountered perception-based quality models in Section 9.3, in particular the quality gaps model. Your answer should draw on these concepts and theories, together with case study evidence, to offer a viable application of how the quality gap model applies to Uber, before exploring which quality gaps (if any) you see as most important.
This question asks you to consider the case study from a marketing perspective. You looked in detail at crisis management concepts in Block 3, Session 12. In particular, Reading 18, Crisis management (Harris, 2017a), introduced a variety of different conceptual approaches to how organisations can manage any crises that occur and measure the performance of their marketing strategies. Reading 18 also introduced you to ways in which organisations can distinguish between a crisis and an issue. Models that will be relevant to your answer include Tybout and Roehm (2009) and Griffin (2008), both from Reading 18, Part 4. You might also choose to consider the importance of company culture and relationships with customers as an approach to managing crises. As with Questions 1 and 2, your answer should make use of appropriate concepts, illustrated with evidence from the case study.
There is a lot of material you could cover in this mind map. You may like to start by thinking of the sub-themes from Block 3, as well as revisiting any mind maps you have produced during your studies.
There are no guidance notes for Part C.
Your tutor will mark your assignment using the following criteria:
your understanding of relevant concepts from B207 Block 3
your application of these concepts to the case study information
your ability to communicate effectively: clarity and economy of writing, and clarity of structure
good academic practice: citing and referencing of ideas taken from all sources other than your own thinking, including the case study and the B207 materials.
Submitting your TMA
You need to submit a single file for your assessment, including all three parts of the assignment in one document.
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