Updated: Apr 4
Unite Scotland are calling on the Scottish Government to deliver a £10,000 grant to each taxi operator, plus an additional second cash grant to cabbies to help them recover from the devastating financial impact of COVID-19.
The £10,000 figure for operators would be the equivalent handed to other small business owners, whilst the additional second cash grant would be provided to drivers as part of the £57million Coronavirus (COVID-19): Taxi and Private Hire Driver Support Fund.
The union also welcomed news of further support announced by Dundee City Council for taxi and private hire drivers through a £1,000 grant, but are demanding that all local authorities in Scotland follow the lead of Dundee.
In December 2020, an online survey of over 200 taxi drivers released by Unite Scotland highlighted that many drivers are regularly working 16-17-hour days with a shift being determined as having been ‘good’ if £50 is cleared.
The survey also showed that 30% of drivers had at the time been unable to access any financial help from government support schemes. For those that had been able to access financial help from government, the biggest group (37%) reported that it represented less than 25% of their average earnings.
Willie Thomson, Unite industrial officer, said: “We welcome this support from Dundee City Council. It’s desperately needed for many drivers whose income has been and continues to be decimated by Covid and the current restrictions. Other councils including those of our largest cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh, must follow Dundee’s lead and do more to help workers and families in the taxi trade.
“Through no fault of their own many of our members have been refused support over the past 12 months. They continue to face significant financial hardship as a result of drastically reduced trade. Taxis remain a vital part of our public transport network and more support from the Scottish Government must be delivered. The Scottish Government must recognise the high fixed costs faced by many taxi operators and deliver support to these workers.”
During a Scottish Parliament debate on 23 March Graham Simpson, Conservative MSP, asked the First Minister: “Yesterday, I talked to members of Unite the union who represent the taxi trade. Some taxi drivers have had help during the pandemic, but in no way has that covered their costs and many drivers are desperate. Forty per cent have had little or no support.
“Unite is asking for two things: first, a scheme to help operators; and secondly, something to help all taxi drivers, such as an extra grant from what is left of the £57 million that was announced in January.
“Will the First Minister agree to look at those requests, to ensure that we get a fair deal for cabbies?”
Nicola Sturgeon, Scottish First Minister, replied: “We always look at requests from trade unions or other organisations, so I am sure that we are already doing that—if not, we will do it.
“The support that we have made available, whether it has been for taxi drivers or any other affected part of the economy, is not and was never going to be able to compensate for all losses. We are seeking to do as much as possible, and that will continue to be the case for as long as is necessary.”