London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s decision to charge Uber Technologies Inc. drivers to operate in the city center amounts to racial discrimination and puts some out of business, lawyers for the drivers said Wednesday in court, in the latest stage of a long-running battle between those working for the ride-hailing firm and traditional cabbies.
A union representing Uber drivers is suing the city’s mayor, saying it isn’t fair that they must pay a daily charge of 11.50 pounds ($14.34) when traditional black-cab drivers don’t have to. While 94% of Uber drivers come from minority backgrounds, 88% of black-cab drivers are white, the union said, meaning the levy “impacts disproportionately” on minorities.
Uber drivers tend to be “individuals working long hours in order to make ends meet and provide for their families in difficult circumstances,” union lawyer Ben Collins said in court Wednesday. They include “some of those least able to withstand a reduction in their income,” he said.
The mayor said in court filings that the levy is an “important means of reducing road congestion and traffic” in central London. “We will robustly defend our position,” a Transport for London spokesman said.
‘Out of Business’
Drivers “are driven out of business or required to work hours which impact on their family, well-being and potentially health,” because of the levy, which was extended to Uber drivers in April, the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain said in its court filings. The charge has a “disproportionate impact on the income of part-time female drivers,” it said.
The battle between drivers of the city’s famous Hackney carriages, and their ride-hailing rivals, is nothing new whether it be protests blocking city streets or in the courts. In a previous lawsuit, a group of traditional cabbies in February tried unsuccessfully to challenge Uber’s operating license in the city.
Uber itself isn’t a party to Wednesday’s case. The IWGB union also represents drivers of London’s minicabs — regular vehicles that can be pre-booked by phone, in the cab firm’s offices or on apps.
A driver paying the levy 22 days per month would lose almost 10% of their income, leaving them with gross earnings of about 26,000 pounds per year, the union said. It said Muhumed Ali, a driver who’s joined the union as a claimant in the suit, has worked longer hours because of the charge and has been unable to help his children with exams and football.
But the mayor’s office says that extending the congestion charge — which is already paid on most vehicles in the city center — to Uber drivers will make journeys quicker and air cleaner. The levy is a “proportionate means” of achieving that, the office said in court filings, and drivers of zero-emission and wheelchair-accessible cars are exempt.
The case is the Queen on the Application of Independent Workers Union of Great Britain v. Mayor of London, High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, Case No. CO/1088/2019.
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