Taxi and private hire drivers are being urged to take part in a day of protest tomorrow (Tuesday 23 May) over the effects of “wild west” regulation.
The GMB union has organised demo across the country including in Brighton as part of a national day of protest.
The way Uber has expanded and operated has come in for criticism. In Brighton and Hove, the company promised to use only locally licensed drivers but has not kept its word.
The union said: “The demonstrations are in anger at the saturation of private hire vehicles and out of town minicabs plying for hire in towns and cities where they are not licensed – with some authorities, notably TfL in London, dishing out licences ‘like sweeties’.
“Earnings have been cut to such an extent that drivers are being forced to work longer and longer hours to scrape by, with many plying for hire in areas where they are not licensed.
“Many now earn below the national minimum wage.”
The GMB said: “The rigged economy favours global companies that pay little tax and no VAT to the UK economy, at the expense of good local drivers who are an asset to local economies.
“A ‘wild west’ situation forms in many towns and cities each a weekend – with local licensing enforcement officers who feel powerless to prevent out of town vehicles plying for hire in areas where they have not been licensed.
“In many cases we see local drivers and their small businesses being forced out of business.
“A lack of national standards and a national database means that safeguarding is now a worry.
“Nationally there are over 350,000 people who earn a living from the trades, ranging from taxi and private hire drivers to chauffeurs, operators, enforcement officers, office staff, insurers, mechanics and test centres.
“Many important services are provided ranging from school transport services, transport for disabled passengers, airports and train station services, as well as the ordinary journeys for business or pleasure.
“This is an important trade and a major part of local economies.”
The GMB said that it was campaigning for changes to national legislation to protect good, local licensed drivers and the services that they provide.
It said that the campaign themes were
• Enshrine into operators’ licences drivers’ and workers’ rights and safety standards
• Protect local taxis and minicab services
• Stop out of town working and cross-border working
• Change the law
• Stop illegal touting and false ‘ply for hire’
• Create a national database for operators, drivers and enforcement officers
• Safeguarding and national standards
• Enforcement officers to be given the power to enforce ‘out of town’ drivers
• Call for an independent inquiry into government collusion regarding TfL (Transport for London) granting an operator’s licence to a company
Mick Rix, the GMB’s national officer for the taxi and professional drivers’ trades, said: “The vast majority of drivers in the trades of both taxi and minicabs are professional drivers and operate strictly in accordance with their licensing requirements.
“However, because of the huge surge in licences being issued there is now overcapacity where drivers are being encouraged by their operators to work hundreds of miles from where they are licensed.
“Many operators are refusing to recognise the safety risks they are placing on drivers due to excessive hours working.
“There is no national database for drivers, operators or enforcement officers.
“Unfortunately the government does not recognise there is a problem which in the main is of their making.”