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MINICAB drivers are taking London Mayor Sadiq Khan to court today over “discriminatory” congestion charge payments, which they claim are pushing them into poverty and debt during the pandemic.
Their union, Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB), argues that forcing mini cab drivers, who are largely from black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) backgrounds, to pay the fee while exempting black cab drivers, who are predominantly white, amounts to indirect discrimination.
Ninety-four per cent of mini cab drivers are BAME, while 88 per cent of black cab drivers are white, according to the union.
The legal challenge, which will be heard today and tomorrow, comes after Mr Khan raised the congestion charge by a further 30 per cent on June 22.
Drivers must now pay £15 every time they want to enter central London.
Minicab drivers said the increase was “devastating” as their earnings have already been “destroyed” by the pandemic.
London-based minicab driver and father of three Faiz Saim said that in one day last week he was forced to spend all his earnings on congestion charge payments and must work seven days a week to stay afloat.
“The congestion charge increase is devastating for us,” he said. “Especially on the back of Covid-19, which destroyed most of our business, I just can’t believe they’re doing this to us.
“I’m grateful the IWGB are calling on Sadiq Khan to think again. He should charge the companies instead of us drivers. Uber can afford it. We can barely afford to keep food on the table.”
The union challenged the application of the charge on a minicab driver last year but the High Court decided that it was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
Mr Khan removed the exemption for minicab drivers from April last year over concerns that the growing number of private hire vehicles, of which there are 18,000, was causing too much congestion.
City Hall estimated that the fee from minicab drivers would generate more than £1.4 million a week.
But IWGB general secretary Jason Moyer-Lee described the fee as a “discriminatory tax on the poor.”
“It is a shame that the mayor has forced drivers to litigate in order to protect their livelihoods,” he added.
City Hall did not respond to the Star’s request for comment at the time of publishing.
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