Minicab drivers in London are taking legal action against Sadiq Khan, the City Mayor, over the launch of a congestion charge which they will be required to pay under the current plans.
The drivers say that the charge discriminates against those who are coming from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.
The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is being imposed in central London starting this April to supposedly reduce traffic. It will, however, charge vehicles £11.50 per day to drive into the heart of the city.
Currently, licenced private hire vehicles (PHVs) and black cabs are exempted from paying the fee, however, the exemption will be lifted for PHVs – including Uber cars – starting April.
The union says that the charge on minicab drivers is considered indirect discrimination under the Equality Act.
It argues the charge is being imposed on a largely BAME workforce while those driving traditional black cabs – who are predominantly white – continue to be exempt.
A “pre-action” letter was sent by the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) has sent to Sadiq Khan. It gives him until Wednesday to go back on the policy before it launches a judicial review at the High Court.
The supporters of the IWGB have been holding protests in the capital for several weeks while the union raised approximately £50,000 through a crowdfunding campaign to fund the legal action.
The union’s United Private Hire Drivers (UPHD) branch secretary, Yaseen Aslam, stated: “We hope the mayor sees sense and scraps this policy that promises to push thousands of drivers into deeper poverty.”
A minicab driver and UPHD committee member, Muhumed Ali, stated: “It is completely discriminatory that we have to pay this charge while black cabs continue to be exempt.”
He added: “If Sadiq Khan doesn’t reverse this policy we will continue to fight it in the courts and in the streets.”
A spokesperson for the London Mayor said that the number of private hire vehicles entering the congestion charge zone of London had exponentially increased – from 4,000 per day in 2003 to more than 18,000 today.
He stated: “Sadiq simply isn’t prepared to ignore the damaging impact this has on congestion and increasing air pollution.”
He added: “Congestion has a crippling impact on businesses across the capital.”
He continued: “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 spokesperson added: “Most other motorists, from private cars to small business owners, are liable for the congestion charge.
He noted: “Removing the congestion charge exemption for private hire vehicles is a key part of our plans to both reduce congestion and to protect Londoners from harmful emissions from polluting vehicles.”