Transport for London's (TfL) announcement that it will lift the exemption on congestion charge for private hire vehicles will hit minicab drivers on poverty wages while doing little to address London's air pollution problem.
This policy will see below minimum wage precarious workers, already denied their worker rights, now lose as much as 25%, according to an analysis by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain's (IWGB) United Private Hire Drivers (UPHD) branch.
TfL's own impact analysis showed a disproportionate impact on poor and BME workers with 71% of TfL licensed minicab drivers hailing from designated deprived areas and 94% identifying as BME. Len Duvall, Leader of the Labour Group in the London Assembly blasted the policy as discriminatory before the London Assembly voted to reject this policy by a margin of 16-3.
A better alternative to this policy would have been to levy the congestion charge tax directly on the consumer or the operator who can pass on the charge to the consumer. But in its current form, drivers have no option to pass on the charge and operators like Addison Lee have already indicatedthat they will pass the charge to the driver but not the consumer.
The only effective way to reduce the impact of private hire vehicles on the environment is for TfL to stop runaway licensing and follow the lead of New York City, where the number of minicabs were capped while setting a minimum wage target for operators like Uber.
In a meeting in October with Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling, Dara Khosrowshahi indicated that he would prefer to see a congestion charge, even if had a regressive impact on poor drivers, than a cap which he said was: “the wrong way to regulate the market and an inappropriate market intervention by the government”
Abdura Razzak Hadi, chair of the London committee of the IWGB's UPHD branch said: "It's time for the Mayor of London to stop putting the vested interests of global mega-corporations and wealthy London consumers ahead of precarious workers suffering sweatshop conditions. The only solution to London's congestion is to cap and reduce private hire vehicles and to protect the worker rights of minicab drivers. The Mayor has done little for the former and nothing of the latter.”