15 May Private Hire Drivers launch ‘flash demo’ outside TfL
Private Hire drivers in the Capital have organised a flash demo protesting at what they call ‘institutional racism’ within Transport for London.
Organised by the United Private Hire Drivers (UPHD) branch of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, it accused TfL of “crushing new costs” which will hit ethnic minority drivers the hardest.
Along with the disputed new operator license costs which zoom.taxi have been vocally opposed to, the protesters said the new regulations such as additional testing, the removal of the congestion charge exemption and the recently introduced Ultra Low Emissions Zone charges make being a driver in London increasingly expensive.
The union says the rules hit the 117,000 ethnic minority drivers the hardest and have accused the organisation of “institutional racism”.
They support claims from other organisations including the LPHCA who are taking TfL to court over the proposed changes of supporting rules which benefit large private hire companies.
Zoom.taxi have accused Transport for London of trying to push small and medium sized companies out of business with the costs which makes starting up as an owner-driver or moving between group sizes for peak times prohibitively expensive whilst large companies get the lowest costs.
James Farrar, national chair of UPHD, said: Discrimination and exploitation are two sides of the same coin with one enabling the other. Time and again, we have asked the Mayor and TfL to take meaningful action to end sweatshop conditions for minicab drivers in the capital. But instead of helping us they take our money and punish us more.”
The LPHCA have said the increased fees for operators could “wipe out” businesses, “”leaving the futures of many drivers, industry suppliers and others connected to the industry in jeopardy”
The number of privately licensed drivers soared by 78 per cent from 65,000 to 160,000 last year, while the number of vehicles increased from 50,000 to 88,000 over the same period.
However, TfL are not allowed to use money from operator licenses on anything other than covering the costs of licensing, compliance and enforcement functions associated with that type of license. Operator Fees cannot lawfully be used to cross subsidise licensing or any other TfL cost which those objecting to the increase have said they suspect it will be used for.
TfL says it expects the cost of enforcement alone to reach £30m – up from a previous estimate of £4m – over the next five years. With the costs of licensing and compliance taken into account, the total reaches £209m over the same period.
A TfL spokesperson said of the court case: “The licence fee changes reflect the increased cost of regulation and associated enforcement activity that has been driven by the huge growth in the private hire industry.
“We consider the changes to fees to be proportionate and will be defending our position.”