Freedom News

Private hire drivers oppose discriminatory English language test policy from Transport for London

Private hire drivers from the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) are condemning the Transport for London (TfL) policy that requires workers to pass two English language tests to be allowed to work in London.

The two tests, the first speaking and listening and the second reading and writing, were brought in in October 2021 and cost £36 to sit and £16 to resit. Drivers are only entitled to resit the examinations once. These costs come on top of other licence application costs, which TfL estimate to cost approximately £477.

Nader Awaad, Uber driver and Chair of IWGB UPHD said, “Many of us private hire drivers have driven for years without any problems or complaints, satisfying customers and helping to keep London’s economy going. This change in policy disproportionately affects migrant workers, and will see thousands of drivers burdened with extra costs and worries, to the disadvantage of both workers and customers alike.”

Members of the IWGB’s United Private Hire Drivers’ branch (UPHD) — around 82% of which are migrant workers and 94% of which are from BAME backgrounds — are calling the tests “unfair” and “discriminatory”. Drivers say the policy is an “indirect attack on the non-white and immigrant communities whose labour is essential to London’s economy and which will cause serious stress and worry for many drivers who have driven for years without any issues relating to communications or safety.”

Alex Marshall, President of IWGB said, “TfL seem to forget that the private hire infrastructure that exists in London is built off the backs of hard-working migrant drivers, who it is choosing to punish with these superfluous new rules. London couldn’t function in the same way without these drivers working through the night and driving huge distances to make sure people can get around safely. Despite this, TfL is creating unnecessary barriers for drivers to work, forcing them to spend more money and take on more stress at the height of a cost of living crisis. The rule change is pointless, racist, and will only see London’s transport infrastructure become weaker with more drivers unable to work.”

Drivers are demanding subsidised English lessons, removal of the resit limit, and the ability to use documented evidence as proof of the English Language Requirement, as was possible before these changes. Drivers are asking people to sign a petition directed to London mayor Sadiq Khan.

Image: IWGB

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