Uber agrees to $10M fee, driver background checks in deal with Newark

By Vernal Coleman | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on April 16, 2016

NEWARK — Hours after announcing the deal that will allow Uber to continue operating in the city, the office of Mayor Ras Baraka on Saturday released details of the tentative agreement.

Under terms of the deal, Uber will pay the city a $10 million fee to operate at Newark Liberty International Airport for the next 10 years.

The company has also agreed to provide $1.5 million in liability coverage for all drivers in its network, conduct background checks of each one and to install and enforce a zero-tolerance drug and alcohol abuse policy.

"In proposing to regulate Uber in Newark, my goals have been to protect the safety of Uber riders, to require Uber to pay its fair share including fees and permits under the same kind of regulations as other businesses in Newark," Baraka said in a released statement. "This agreement achieves just that."

Uber also applauded the deal. "Uber is proud to be the first ride-sharing company to reach a compromise with the City of Newark," said spokesman Matthew Wing. "We thank Mayor Baraka for his leadership in making Newark the first City in New Jersey to embrace comprehensive and fair ride-sharing regulations."

Lionel Leach, president of CWA Local 1039, the union that represents nearly 300 taxi drive and has pushed for regulations to "level the playing field" playing field between taxi and rideshare companies said the agreement fails to meet that goal.

"This is an agreement for $10 million that benefits the city and the rideshare companies, not the [taxi]drivers. "Based on what I see right now, the only thing that it creates an unfair balance."

The agreement, which has yet to be approved by the Municipal Council, appears to have brought to a close the extended negotiations between city officials and the company that in recent weeks turned acrimonious.

Baraka and other city officials have claimed that Uber and other car services enjoy an unfair advantage over taxis licensed by Newark. Representatives of the traditional cab companies also say services like Lyft and Uber threaten to put them out of business.

The city had previously proposed a ban on the car-hailing services at Newark Liberty Airport and Penn Station, an effort that initially floundered when the Port Authority and NJ Transit both declined to enforce it. But ticketing resumed following a rally by cab drivers at city hall.

More recently, the city proposed a number of fees to be imposed on what the company says are an estimated 2,000 Uber drivers who work in Newark. Those fees total far more than what cab drivers pay, Uber contends, an assertion disputed by unions representing the cab companies.

In response, Uber this week threatened to leave the city.

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