Union asks government to provide urgent emergency support to help 82,000 “destitute” UK taxi drivers


Unite the Union have requested an emergency support package for the 82,000 UK taxi drivers following the trade's dramatic and serious COVID-19 downturn.


The union’s representatives have contacted the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps MP, after learning taxi drivers are “overwhelmed” and “struggling with how they will continue to provide for their families”.

Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite the Union, wrote to Shapps MP on 15 April saying: “The reduction in work is so severe that income, in many instances, does not cover operating costs and lots of taxi drivers are already experiencing financial hardship.


“Many of our members in the taxi sector have written to us in distress as they anticipate the collapse of their business and imminent destitution without further support from the Government.”


The union goes on to highlight concerns for cabbies who do not have the cash flow to cover costs and urges government to use taxi drivers during the COVID-19 crisis to help key workers and to protect the taxi trade.


Unite are pushing for government to use licensed taxis to:


  • Transport patients to and from non-emergency appointments.

  • Deliver shopping for the elderly or transport them to and from supermarkets.

  • Transport NHS and other groups of key workers to work.

  • Where appropriate deliver medical supplies.


McCluskey adds: “Our activists in the taxi sector are not looking for a government handout. They have been incredibly proactive and some have successfully lobbied their local authorities and negotiated suspensions on licence renewals, extensions to age limit of taxis, a break from, or postponement of, licensing fees and suspension of testing fees.


“This offers a much-needed lifeline for taxi drivers in certain local authorities but this postcode lottery must not be a factor and we call on you to extend such measures nationally.”


On top of using the taxi industry during the coronavirus fight back, Unite are saying it is “vital” to support the taxi trade by:


  • Wage support straight away without having to wait until June.

  • No means testing of Universal Credit or other benefits.

  • Suspending or reducing all taxi related running costs, including licence plate fees, monthly radio fees, rental fees and insurance payments for taxis not on the road. This would include lifting the age limit on vehicles for those that may need to be changed within this next three months, to be suspended until late December

  • Backing loan repayment holidays for private hire vehicles and moratoriums on marking down drivers’ credit files.

  • Emergency interim payments to keep the taxi on the road.

  • Reviewing the licensing regime and stop all payments for licences, with a three month temporary extension for those expected to renew in the next 12 months.


Finally, McCluskey wrote: “We are asking for this range of measures as a matter of urgency as this is a fast-moving situation that needs innovative responses. Many of our members in the taxi sector are now relying on handouts from the already under pressure food banks. We have members who applied for Universal Credit on week one of the lockdown and still haven't received confirmation any award.


“We fear that if the Government fail to make emergency provisions including an interim payment of some kind to self-employed taxi drivers, our members and their families will be destitute. Our Union fears not only for the survival of the taxi industry but also for the mental health and wellbeing of our members who are on the brink of financial ruin and the impact this is all having on their families.”

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