Unite calls for urgent talks with transport secretary as UK’s 82,000 taxi drivers ‘face financial ruin’

Unite the union put forward a six-point plan to government today (Monday 20 April) to save the UK’s 82,000 taxi drivers from financial ruin, even destitution, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Unite said that the 82,000 figure was the equivalent of the whole population of Scunthorpe in Lincolnshire facing the prospect of no work, no income and no hope.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey has written to transport secretary Grant Shapps asking for an urgent meeting, as Unite taxi drivers report a slump in income of 95 per cent and some making just £10 after seven hours working in London.

Unite said taxi drivers were keen to play an active part in the national battle against the coronavirus by transporting key workers such as NHS staff to work and patients to non-emergency appointments; as well as shopping trips to supermarkets for the elderly.

In his letter to the transport secretary, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “With most people staying at home the reduction in trade is so severe that taxi driver income, in many instances, does not cover operating costs.  

“Many taxi drivers are already experiencing financial hardship.  Many of our members in the taxi sector have written to us in distress as they anticipate the collapse of their business and imminent destitution without further support from the government. 

“At rail stations and airports our members are struggling to pick up any trade with some reporting they are only managing to make £10 after seven hours of working in London. 

“At rail stations our drivers report a 95 per cent downturn.  Traffic through airports has also plummeted with many airlines reducing flights by 80 per cent.”

Unite had campaigned for parity with the coronavirus job retention scheme, but said its taxi driver members simply cannot wait for June to receive financial relief, and many are exempt from claiming universal credit.

Len McCluskey added: “This is fuelling anguish, despair, worry and family issues as drivers struggle with the potential of financial collapse.  In most cases taxi drivers would not qualify for universal benefits, due to the draconian means testing of this service.  

“Many of our members in the taxi sector are now relying on handouts from the already under pressure food banks.

“Our union fears not only for the survival of the taxi industry, but also for the mental health and wellbeing of our members who are on the brink of financial ruin and the impact this is all having on their families.” 

Unite has put forward the following recommendations to government to support the taxi industry:

  • Wage support straight away with no delay until June.
  • No means testing of universal credit or other benefits.
  • Suspending or reducing all taxi related running costs, including licence plate fees, monthly radio fees, rental fees and insurance payments for taxis not on the road. This would include lifting the age limit on vehicles for those that may need to be changed within this next three months, to be suspended until late December.
  • Backing loan repayment holidays for private hire vehicles and moratoriums on marking down drivers’ credit files.
  • Emergency interim payments to keep the taxi on the road.
  • Reviewing the licensing regime and stop all payments for licences, with a three month temporary extension for those expected to renew in the next 12 months.

The link to the petition to support taxi drivers is below:

https://www.megaphone.org.uk/petitions/give-taxi-drivers-the-wage-support-they-need-now-not-in-june

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