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Minicab drivers' protest shuts down Tower Bridge

Sam Tobin reports from central London

MINICAB drivers shut down Tower Bridge today demanding that Transport for London (TfL) reverse its decision to lift the congestion charge exemption on private hire drivers.

Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) members protested outside City Hall, calling for TfL to recognise the union and make respect for workers’ rights a condition of licences for the likes of Uber and Addison Lee, before briefly blockading the bridge.



The union is also fighting to force TfL to take action over what it says is an “epidemic of violence” against drivers, with an IWGB survey revealing that 55 per cent of drivers have been assaulted and a shocking 83 per cent have been the victims of hate crime.

Around 100 protesters chanted “Sadiq Khan, shame on you” and demanded the Mayor of London intervene to protect minicab drivers’ employment rights and livelihoods.

Mahad Kadie, a former minicab driver who has had to leave the job, told the Star that Mr Khan’s approach was “totally wrong, it’s unacceptable.”

He said the mayor’s £11.50 daily congestion charge would make a “big difference” to minicab drivers, who would have to “put more hours in” to claw back up to £250 a month, adding: “We have got families, we have to give our families time too.”

IWGB United Private Hire Drivers branch chairman James Farrar told the Star the decision to make minicab drivers pay the congestion charge would “pile more misery onto minicab drivers. The mayor simply doesn’t understand the devastating personal consequences of his policy.

“He is putting consumer choice ahead of decency and the impact on people because minicab drivers don’t even have the most basic of protections and employment rights.”

He said employment tribunals had ruled that Uber and Addison Lee were “unlawfully denying their drivers employment rights they are legally entitled to”, but were still granted operating licences: “We are saying they should make [respect for the law] a condition of their licences.”

Mr Farrar added: “This is a last resort and it is costing these drivers a lot of money. They wouldn’t be here if this wasn’t desperate.”

TfL’s director of city planning Alex Williams said the proposals were about “reducing traffic and improving air quality for everyone.”

He said: “Around 28 per cent of minicabs in the zone are empty and this change will encourage private hire firms and drivers to operate more efficiently. PHVs may still qualify for other discounts and exemptions.”

However, IWGB general secretary Jason Moyer-Lee told the Star that minicab drivers had become “low-paid whipping boys.”


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