Hundreds of minicab drivers are expected to “park up” on Blackfriars Road outside Transport for London's (TfL) headquarters today in protest to the introduction last month of regressive congestion charges for minicabs.
The protest, called by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain's (IWGB) United Private Hire Drivers branch (UPHD), will kick off at 10am today at TfL's Palestra House on Backfriars Road.
Drivers are angry with the policy introduced by the Mayor of London and TfL, which amounts to a “tax on the poor” and will do little to reduce congestion. The charge could see drivers, already on poverty wages, have their take home pay slashed by as much as 25%, according to an analysis by the IWGB's 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. Black cabs drivers, which are 80% white British, continue to be exempt from paying congestion charge.
The IWGB proposes an alternative policy that would effectively deal with the problem of congestion, including:
A cap on the total number of minicab vehicle licenses.
Instead of a congestion charge, place a licensing cost levy on private hire operators, based on the frequency of private hire vehicles from their fleet appearing on the congestion zone.
To reduce the amount of time drivers spend on the road waiting for passengers (50% of time drivers spend on the road is without a passenger) TfL should provide dedicated rest spaces for at least 4,000 minicabs to stop in London's zones one and two.
The Mayor of London should use his existing powers to enforce worker rights. Minimum wage enforcement would provide the necessary incentive for operators to reduce the number of cars on the road.
Abdurazk Hadi, Uber driver and chair of the London committee of the IWGB's UPHD branch said: “Drivers like myself, already suffering from Uber's poverty wages, are now being hit by this ill thought out congestion charge. Instead of targetting the pockets of multinational corporations, Sadiq Khan has chosen to introduce this tax on the poor., leaving us no option but to protest. Unless this charge is scrapped many of us don't know how we will continue feeding our families and paying for a roof over our heads.”
James Farrar, chair of the IWGB's UPHD branch said: “If the mayor and TfL really want to reduce congestion they should immediately use their powers to enforce minimum wage legislation and other worker rights. Instead of introducing this and other common sense policies like rest stops for drivers and a levy on operators, Sadiq Khan is choosing to target some of the city's most vulnerable workers. These workers have had enough of policies that ignore their concerns and are going to fight back until they get the fair deal they deserve.”
The IWGB's UPHD branch has been campaigning since July against the Mayor of London's and TfL's failure to tackle driver exploitation and their refusal to allow equal representation for minicab drivers in the stakeholder process.