“Taxi drivers are really struggling. We can’t wait until June to be paid.”
That is the message being echoed by taxi drivers up and down the country, and it is the one Unite has urged the transport secretary, Grant Shapps to heed.
Unite has put forward a six-point plan to government to help save taxi drivers from financial ruin due to the coronavirus lockdown.
Unite has said that there are 82,000 taxi drivers who are self-employed and have seen their earnings collapse because of the pandemic. Their income has fallen by an impossible 95 per cent – with some in London making just £10 after working seven hours – or £1.43 an hour.
Taxi drivers are 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. And many already do so – in the meantime many drivers and their families face complete financial collapse.
Unite’s plan calls for 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.
It also calls for 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, stop all payments for licences, with a three month temporary extension for those expected to renew in the next 12 months.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey wasted no time and in his letter to transport secretary, Grant Shapps, he 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,” he added. “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.”
Unite had campaigned for parity for self-employed workers with the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme (CJRS), but our taxi drivers members simply can’t wait until June for earnings compensation, and many are exempt from claiming Universal Credit.
“This is fuelling anguish, despair, worry and family issues as drivers struggle with the potential of financial collapse,” McCluskey added.
“In most cases taxi drivers would not qualify for universal benefits, due to the draconian means testing of this service.
“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,” he concluded.
- Get involved and get taxi drivers the support they need during the coronavirus crisis. Please sign and share the petition
By Chantal Chegrinec @chantalc28