For more than two years, a grassroots-led union has been battling Transport for London (TfL) over its treatment of mini-cab drivers working for companies like Uber, Lyft and Addison Lee.

Real Media covered the issue in September 2018 when drivers told us that, while consulting over the extension of the Congestion Charge, TfL was negotiating with black cab trade unions and associations and with the employers, but refusing to hear the concerns of minicab drivers or recognise their union.

The United Private Hire Drivers union, a branch of the Independent Workers of Great Britain (IWGB) were arguing for a cap on the number of private hire vehicles working for Uber, something which has been applied in other major cities around the world. Without any such cap, the employer can exploit drivers and force down terms and conditions, and having so many drivers on standby also increases air pollution and congestion.

The union was also asking for an exemption from the congestion charge (for it to be applied to the employer, not the driver). They argued that applying a congestion charge on drivers encourages them to wait around within the congestion zone to maximise earnings once they’ve paid, which again increases rather than decreases congestion.

More than 90% of London’s private hire drivers come from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, so TfL’s imposition of the charge and failure to negotiate amounts to discriminatory behaviour according to leading barristers from Old Square Chambers, who are at the Court of Appeal today and tomorrow to overturn last year’s High Court ruling which stated the charge on minicab drivers was proportionate.

Citing the Equality Act 2010, the union’s legal team will also ask the Appeal Court to consider whether the charge discriminates against women, who are more likely to work part-time, and against passengers with disabilities or who are elderly, who will have be affected by the charge.

The London Mayor increased the congestion charge by 30% earlier this month, at a time when Covid-19 has had devastating effects on the livelihoods of minicab drivers.

Real Media of course agrees with the principle of reducing congestion, but in a move to a greener world surely the first step is to target private vehicle ownership, not shared transport, and if TfL ARE going to target cabs, then they should include black cabs (whose drivers happen to be 88% white).

Check out our report from 2018: