LONDON: London Mayor Sadiq Khan now faces a legal challenge from a British-Pakistani trade union leader who started a legal case over the introduction of a congestion charge.
Yaseen Aslam, a former Uber driver-turned-full-time leader of the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), has in the past led a successful legal action to ride-hailing giant, Uber.
Speaking to Geo News, Aslam said the IWGB is heading a legal complaint and will approach the London High Court seeking a judicial review. The drivers, he noted, claim that the charge discriminates against those from black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds since an overwhelming majority of drivers come from Asian and African backgrounds and Khan's plans affect them directly.The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is set to be introduced in central London this April to reduce traffic. While licenced black cabs and private hire vehicles (PHVs) will be exempted from the £11.50-per-day charge to be paid to drive into the heart of the city, the exemption will be lifted for PHVs as well as Uber cars. Aslam told Geo News that the charge on minicab drivers is indirect discrimination under the Equality Act. He argued that the charge was being imposed on a largely BAME workforce while those driving traditional black cabs — who are also predominantly white people — continue to be exempt, which, in turn, is racial discrimination. “We have warned Sadiq Khan to review his policy or face us in the court. We hope the mayor sees sense and scraps this policy that promises to push thousands of drivers into deeper poverty," the IWGB leader said. Aslam, who also holds the branch secretary position at the union's United Private Hire Drivers (UPHD), said: "It is completely discriminatory that poor drivers have to pay this charge, while black cabs continue to be exempt. "Our fight will be in the courts and in the streets.” He complained that drivers of ethnic minorities had voted for Khan in the elections in hopes that he would work differently and protect the workers' interests; however, he has taken discriminatory steps to please the lobby of black cab drivers.
A spokesperson for Khan underscored that the number of privately-hired vehicles entering London's 'congestion charge' zone had exhibited an exponential growth — from 4,000 a day in 2003 to over 18,000 at present."Sadiq [Khan] simply isn't prepared to ignore the damaging impact this has on congestion and increasing air pollution," he said. "Congestion has a crippling impact on businesses across the capital. "At the same time, our toxic air in London is a major public health crisis that is stunting the lung development of our children, leading to thousands of premature deaths and increases the risk of asthma and dementia. "Most other motorists, from private cars to small business owners, are liable for the congestion charge," the spokesperson added. "Removing the congestion charge exemption for private hire vehicles is a key part of our plans to both reduce congestion and to protect Londoners from harmful emissions from polluting vehicles."