A union representing private hire drivers has launched a legal challenge over the extension of London’s Congestion Charge to their vehicles, on the grounds that it ‘discriminates against and breaches the human rights of a mainly BAME workforce’.
The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) said it had issued a pre-action letter giving London mayor Sadiq Khan until 6 March to reverse the policy before it launches a judicial review in the High Court.
Drivers with IWGB banners protesting in London in January
The union said introduction of the £11.50 charge on minicab drivers is a case of indirect discrimination under the Equality Act as it is being imposed on a workforce that is mainly black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME).
It said that according to Transport for London (TFL) 94% of London's 107,000 minicab drivers are BAME, while black cab drivers are mostly white and continue to be exempt.
The union said the policy is also in breach of a number of articles of the European Convention on Human Rights covering discrimination, property rights, right to a family life and ability to carry out a profession.
IWGB United Private Hire Drivers branch secretary Yaseen Aslam said: ‘Four years ago I decided to take Uber to court because it was unlawfully depriving me of my basic employment rights. I didn't imagine then, that years later I would be forced to take legal action against mayor of London Sadiq Khan for introducing a policy that discriminates against our community.
‘We hope the mayor sees sense and scraps this policy that promises to push thousands of drivers into deeper poverty.’
TfL pointed out that private hire vehicles (PHVs) that are wheelchair accessible or ultra-clean would not lose their exemption.
A spokesperson for the mayor said that the number of PHVs entering the Congestion Charge zone had ‘shot up’ from 4,000 a day in 2003, to more than 18,000 now.
The spokesperson said: ‘Sadiq simply isn’t prepared to ignore the damaging impact this has on congestion and increasing air pollution.
‘Congestion has a crippling impact on businesses across the capital. At the same time, our toxic air in London is a major public health crisis that is stunting the lung development of our children, leading to thousands of premature deaths and increases the risk of asthma and dementia.’
The IWGB said the legal action follows seven weeks of protests by minicab drivers and that it has proposed a number of alternatives to this policy, including a cap on the total number PHV driver licences.
However, as Transport Network reported in 2017, Mr Khan appears to have identified the new policy as a way of reducing the impact of PHVs in the absence of the ability to cap private hire licences.
TfL has said that its analysis indicated that the removal of the PHV Congestion Charge exemption could reduce the number of individual PHVs entering central London by up to 45%.