Hundreds of fuming minicab drivers are expected to block London Bridge with their cars in a third protest over the “regressive” congestion charge introduced by Transport for London, which will see their take home pay slashed by a quarter.
The protest called by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain’s (IWGB) United Private Hire Drivers (UPHD) branch against regressive congestion charges on minicabs to be introduced in April, builds on three previous demonstrations that were attended by thousands of drivers. The protest will take place today from 4-6pm and drivers vow to repeat the protest every Monday.
TfL’s own impact analysis showed a disproportionate impact on poor and BAME workers with 71 per cent of TfL licensed minicab drivers hailing from designated deprived areas and 94 per cent identifying as BAME. Black cab drivers, who are 80 per cent white British, continue to be exempt from paying congestion charge.
Minicab leaders say the growth of these protests – last week’s is pictured above – shows the rising anger among minicab drivers that feel ignored by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who refuses to speak to them or address their concerns.
The policy introduced by the Mayor and Transport for London amounts to a “tax on the poor” and will see minicab drivers’ take home pay slashed by up to 25 per cent, while doing little to reduce congestion. TfL expects its policy to reduce congestion by only 600 cars per day or just one per cent of the private hire traffic that goes through the congestion zone. Analysis included in TfL’s report to the Mayor shows that air quality is expected to get worse as a result of the plan.
The IWGB proposes an alternative policy to deal with the problem of congestion, including:
* A cap on the total number of minicab driver licenses.
* A licensing cost levy on private hire operators, based on the frequency of private hire vehicles from their fleet appearing in the congestion zone.
* To reduce the amount of time drivers spend on the road waiting for passengers, TfL should provide dedicated rest spaces for at least 4,000 minicabs.
* Minimum wage enforcement, which would provide the necessary incentive for operators to reduce the number of cars on the road.
Yaseen Aslam, Secretary of the IWGB’s UPHD branch, said: “The Mayor has refused to engage with minicab drivers who will be pushed into greater poverty by this ruinous tax on the poor. London is one of the most profitable cities in the world for operators like Uber, yet it is drivers and their families, not the company, that are being made to bear the costs of fixing up congestion.Until the Mayor comes to the table and listens to us we are left with no choice but to further escalate our protests.”
“The number of Private Hire Vehicles entering the Congestion Charge zone has shot up from 4,000 a day in 2003, to more than 18,000 now, and Sadiq simply isn’t prepared to ignore the damaging impact this has on congestion and increasing air pollution.
“Toxic air pollution in London is a major public health crisis that is stunting the lung development of our children and leads to thousands of premature deaths and increases the risk of asthma and dementia. We have to make tough decisions to protect the health and wellbeing of Londoners and tackle harmful emissions from the most polluting vehicles.”
The Mayor’s office says black cabs are exempt from the Congestion Charge as they are legally required to be fully wheelchair accessible and include a number of additional features to assist disabled passengers, including a hearing aid induction loop, intermediate step and grab handles. Black cab drivers also legally have to take any fare within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross and any journey under 12 miles, meaning drivers have no choice about whether they cross the boundary. Sadiq has no control over how much minicab drivers are paid and their working conditions through current licensing powers but has also called on businesses, including minicab operators, to commit to paying their drivers the London Living Wage.