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Time for Change

Labour Shows Alternative to Tory Race to the Bottom

By Mike Hedges

Unite the union supported Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party in the General Election. We want a new type of politics that puts people first, that looks after our interests and not just those of the rich and big corporations. That’s why as soon as the election was announced Unite Cab Section spoke to Andy MacDonald MP, Labour’s Shadow Transport Minister, about having a section in Labour’s Manifesto on tackling Uber, cross-border hiring and exploitation of drivers.
Andy fully understood the issues, and unlike Cameron, Osborne and the Tories, released the following statement for the Manifesto…

“The Tories have ignored the fact that taxi and private hire vehicle regulations are out-of-date and have failed to act. The current system is complex, outdated and in need of an upgrade: passengers don’t have a guarantee of safety or quality, drivers are without proper employment rights and operators are competing against one another in a rigged market”.

“Labour is on the side of cab drivers, the travelling public and operators. After consulting with all parts of the industry, including companies, trade unions and consumer groups, we will reform the legislation governing taxi and private hire services, introducing national standards to guarantee safety and accessibility, updating regulations to keep pace with technological change and ensuring a level playing field between operators.”

This shows which side the Labour Party is on and how they will act in the event of becoming the Government. They are on the side of taxi drivers and legitimate private hire companies.

Contrast this with the Tories who have supported Uber at every opportunity. In 2011 the Tories blocked the Parliamentary Transport Select Committee’s recommendations for an end to cross-border hiring and national standards. If the Tories had followed the recommendations, Uber would never have established itself in this country.

The Tories then wasted four years with the Law Commission before forcing the Deregulation Act through parliament against the advice of every organisation involved in taxi licensing and safety. Even when the Tory Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, tried to introduce new safety standards for Uber in London, this proved too much for Cameron and Osborne. We have all seen how they stood by their friends at Uber. But, remember, Teresa May and all of the leading Tories, have supported Uber every inch of the way, they have never dissented or tried to stop Uber.

Only the Labour Party, and Jeremy Corbyn, offer any hope. Labour has shown that a new type of politics putting people first, clamping down on exploitative employers, making businesses pay all of their taxes and ensuring there is a real living wage, will make a big difference to people’s lives. Labour has shown that there is an alternative that offers hope for the future and that big business doesn’t have to have everything its own way. They need to be held responsible for their actions.

This general election has redefined politics, between those that want to change our society for the better and those that support the status quo. Unite Cab Section believes that we need a fundamental change in attitudes against the likes of Uber and these low wage, exploitative companies. That is why we think that only the Labour Party can look after our interests, only the Labour Party can put our interests first.

Before the election, Unite Cab Section, spoke to many taxi drivers on taxi ranks and in the streets. The anger against the Tories was colossal, we’ve never seen such anger. Every taxi driver that we met was voting for the Labour Party. But we need to channel that anger and frustration into building a campaign that challenges the Tories to bring in new legislation to stop Uber. They need to follow Labour’s lead in bringing in legislation that stops cross-border hiring, caps private hire numbers, introduces tough minimum standards, guarantees passenger safety and stops drivers being exploited by having tough employment rights.

These need to be our minimum demands from this weak, unstable Conservative government. They are more beatable than ever, now is the time to get behind the Labour Party and Jeremy Corbyn, and force this government to introduce new laws to bring about modern taxi and private hire legislation that brings us into the 21st Century and puts passenger safety at its heart. Building alliances with local authorities, consumers, associations and passenger safety groups to ensure that this happens.

If the Tories won’t do it, then we need to campaign for them to step aside and let the Labour Party put us first. Labour has shown it is on the side of taxi drivers, let us get Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party into Downing Street in order to bring about real change in this country.

This article is published in the Summer 2017 issue of Cab Trade News magazine, the magazine for taxi drivers from Unite the union.

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