An estimated 5,000 taxi drivers will protest in Whitehall tomorrow, 10 February, against "government bias against the black cab trade" and their "race to the bottom in deregulating the trade".
In particular, says Unite, the largest union in the country, drivers will be speaking out against ‘light touch’ regulation for private hire firms such as Uber, which Unite feels is "at the expense of passenger safety".
Among the specific moves that the protestors are against is last November's High Court ruling that smartphones used by some Uber drivers to harness GPS technology for the calculation of fares do not classify as taximeters.
Unite also claims that the rapid increase in the private hire sector has had an adverse impact on air quality and the environment in London.
But although London's black cab drivers are no doubt concerned for Londoners' safety, the protest will be construed by many as a fight for their livelihood. The number of minicabs in London has risen from 59,000 in 2009/10 to more than 95,000 today. There are now more private hire vehicles — including Uber — in London during the day, than there are black cabs.
Said chair of the Unite London & Eastern taxi cab section, Jim Kelly: “The reduction in safety for passengers because of the ‘light touch’ regime is to be deplored. It is a race-to-the bottom — when in 2016 we want the highest possible standards."
The protest takes place on 10 February at Whitehall from 2.30pm, and is expected to affect road traffic in the area.