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Uber drivers stage protest against Mayor Khan’s ‘tax on the poor’

Fears licensing levy aimed at tackling congestion and pollution will cut take-home pay by 25 per cent

21 January, 2019 — By Tom Foot

Minicab drivers say they will protest every week against Sadiq Khan’s licensing levy

MINICAB drivers protested outside the headquarters of Transport for London warning of a “tax on the poor”.

More than 1,000 drivers attended the march from Palestra House to Blackfriars Bridge last Monday, with many fearing a new policy will see take-home pay cut by 25 per cent.

A new licensing levy is being imposed on drivers following changes introduced by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan. The scheme was introduced to curb congestion and pollution, but it is the low-paid Uber drivers, not the company, that are footing the bill.

James Farrar, chairman of the United Private Hire Drivers Union, said: “Today we can see the anger felt by drivers. Hundreds of us have come out on the streets today to call on Sadiq Khan to halt his plans to extend the congestion charge to minicab drivers.

“We are not going to stop until he listens to the exploited workers of this city – every Monday we will protest against TfL until they undo the damage they are planning to do. The ball is now in TfL’s court as we have raised our collective voices and stand united against this unjust and regressive tax on the poor.”

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain’s (IWGB) United Private Hire Drivers branch, which organised the protest (UPHD) said they would be back every Monday.

Caroline Russell, Green Party Assembly Member said at the protest: “I am one of three AMs who supported the mayor on congestion charging for PHV, so I’m an unexpected supporter; but I believe that these drivers and UPHD are right in calling for TfL to charge the operators who make all the profits and not the drivers who are working long hours on low pay to cover rent on their home, the loan on their car and keep food on the table.”

Abdura Razzak Hadi, Uber driver and chairman 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 targeting 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.”

Alex Williams, TfL’s director of city planning, said: “Bold action is required to tackle London’s public health crisis. More than 9,000 deaths are linked to air quality every year. The private hire trade, along with all road users, have a central role in reducing the filthy fumes circulating in our city.

“The changes to the congestion charge will contribute to fewer vehicles driving where pollution is most concentrated while ensuring the cleanest minicabs or those that are wheelchair accessible continue to enter the zone without paying a charge.

“The changes to the con­gestion charge and the introduction of the Ultra Low Emission Zone in April will significantly benefit the health of all Lon­doners, including drivers.”


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