IWGB fights discriminatory minicab congestion charge at Court of Appeal

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) is taking a legal battle against Mayor of London Sadiq Khan’s decision to introduce a congestion charge on minicab drivers to the Court of Appeal, on the grounds that it discriminates against the sector’s overwhelmingly BAME workforce.

The IWGB will be appealing a decision by the High Court from July 2019 which stated that the congestion charge on minicabs was a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. The union will argue that the decision to remove the exemption on minicabs was a breach of section 19 and 29 (6) Equality Act 2010 in respect of race, sex and disability. The case will be heard today and tomorrow.

In 2019 protests erupted over seven weeks as private hire drivers called on Sadiq Khan to scrap the congestion charge, which imposed for many what was already an unbearable financial burden. The union has proposed alternatives to reduce congestion fairly, including a cap on the total number of private hire licenses or a levy on private hire operators such as Uber and Lyft.

On 22 June, the congestion charge was increased by 30 percent to £15 per day. At the same time, plummeting demand due to the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed many drivers into deeper poverty and debt.

London-based minicab driver and father of three Faiz Saim said:

“The congestion charge increase is devastating for us. Especially on the back of Covid-19, which destroyed most of our business, I just can’t believe they’re doing this to us. The other day I only got two jobs in the morning and every penny I earned went on congestion charge payments. I’ve lost my weekends with my children, since I’ve got to be out there seven days a week now. I’m grateful the IWGB are calling on Sadiq Khan to think again. He should charge the companies instead of us drivers. Uber can afford it. We can barely afford to keep food on the table.” 

The IWGB will argue that the decision to introduce the charge for minicab drivers, while black cab drivers continue to be exempt, constitutes a case of indirect discrimination under the Equality Act. 94% of minicab drivers are from Black and Ethnic Minority (BAME) backgrounds, while 88% of black cab drivers are white.

The union will also argue that the charge discriminates against women, who are more likely to work part time, and disabled or elderly passengers, who have fewer transport options as a result of the charge.