ADCU Glasgow Branch staged a 'Go Slow Convoy' to protest the lack of Covid-19 support for the private hire trade from Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government.
On 9th June 2021, ADCU Glasgow Branch staged a 'Go Slow Convoy' to protest the lack of Covid-19 support for the private hire trade from Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Government. Over 100 drivers met at Glasgow's Springfield Quay before setting off on a slow moving convoy through the city centre, including laps around George Square and the City Chambers, Glasgow's main council headquarters. Members were protesting the low level of support being offered and have been saying "the support is far too little and far too late", and also demanding that "meaningful support be delivered immediately".
Towards the end of the protest, a spur of the moment event took place where drivers stopped their cars at George Square and spilled out onto George Square on foot to hold an impromptu standing demo in front of the city chambers. Led by Alfie Wellcoat (Glasgow's Vice Chair) on megaphone, drivers chanted "Glasgow City Council - Shame on You" while a sizeable contingent of the press took photos and video.
After the protest, Eddie Grice, chair of Glasgow Branch, said: "Over 100 private hire and taxi drivers took part in the protest and the message being sent to Glasgow Council and the Scottish Government was crystal clear. Drivers are bitterly disappointed with the level of support being offered and are demanding that more be done to help. It's not just about grant money though. We have virtually lost a third of the lifespan of our licences and have also lost a chunk of the lifespan of our vehicles due to the council's age limits on our cars. We are demanding the council to extend the lifespan of private hire cars in Glasgow from 7 to, at least, 10 years and are demanding that the loss on our licence lifespans be mitigated in some way. We will not back down until our demands have been met and the survival of our trade has been ensured. Another great thing to see today was the largest showing of solidarity amongst drivers that our trade has ever seen in Scotland. This is the most united I have ever seen this industry and it is truly fantastic to witness. I'm really proud of our members after today and I thank them all for showing up in the numbers that they did. Drivers are coming together to fight for better working conditions, better treatment, and an end to exploitative practices in this industry."
Alfie Wellcoat, vice-chair in Glasgow, added: "We've been trying to open a dialogue with the council for the last few months - they've not been listening. Before the election there were six councils, including Edinburgh, paying out anywhere between £1,500 to £2,500 as a top up. Some councils are going to be getting three grants and Glasgow is only going to be getting two - that's our main gripe. We're down a lot of money. It's going to take at least a year plus to get back to where we were."
After the protest, ADCU Glasgow Branch released the following statement, which was sent to all Councillors in Glasgow:
To Glasgow City Council,
As you will be aware, on Wednesday 9th June 2021, members of the App Drivers and Couriers Union took part in a convoy through Glasgow to protest the lack of overall support being offered to the private hire trade in respect of the ongoing pandemic and its associated 'lockdown restrictions', and to demand that proper and meaningful support, finally, be given. We were joined by the All Glasgow Hackney Union who were representing the taxi trade for the same reasons.
Over 100 vehicles took part in the convoy and a sizeable media presence was also in attendance. The protest received coverage on radio (Clyde 1, Go Radio and BBC Radio Scotland), in print media (Glasgow Times, Glasgow Live, Taxi Point and Private Hire and Taxi Monthly), and also on television (Dunya News and BBC Reporting Scotland).
Since the date of the protest, drivers in East Renfrewshire have been contacted by their local authority to inform them that they will receive three support grants in total (including grants previously paid). Two of these grants being paid from the Taxi and Private Hire Drivers Support Fund and a third grant from discretionary funds. The three payments are of £1500, totalling £4500. This makes East Renfrewshire the seventh local authority to release a discretionary top-up. These payments are in addition to the recently announced “operators grants”. Details of the seven local authorities and their support grants follow for your convenience:
In comparison, drivers in Glasgow have received two payments totalling £3,000.
On two separate occasions, Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister for Scotland, stated in Parliament that taxi drivers would be able to access discretionary grants. Representatives from another trade union have publicly reported that Kate Forbes, MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy, has said that drivers should have received payments from discretionary funds. Several weeks ago, Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council, was quoted by the media as saying that Glasgow City Council was “very close” to finding a solution to release a payment. To date, no such discretionary payment has been made to drivers in Glasgow, even though Glasgow had been under the harshest level of restrictions for the longest period of time compared to other local authority areas in Scotland.
On 13 May 2021, at a meeting of Glasgow City Council, Councillor Thomas Kerr raised a motion (agenda item 8C), which, after amendment, was passed unanimously and read as follows:
“... Council also expresses concern in regard to the inequity of support for taxi and private hire drivers across Scotland. Council is dismayed at the slow rate of progress in addressing the inequity faced by Glasgow taxi drivers compared to their peers in other local authorities across Scotland. Council clearly states its support for the taxi and private hire trade in Glasgow and endeavours to ensure it is treated fairly and with due consideration of the significant financial impact that drivers have faced over the course of the pandemic. ...Council therefore resolves the following: ... (3) the inequity of support for taxi and private hire drivers between Glasgow and other local authorities must be addressed. Therefore, a report is to be brought to the City Administration Committee at the earliest opportunity setting out how Glasgow will address this inequity and support the taxi and private hire industry in our city...”
When does the council expect the above-mentioned report to be published and brought to the City Administration Committee? Is it still the view of the council that “the inequity faced by Glasgow taxi drivers compared to their peers in other local authorities” must be addressed?
We have been calling for “proper and meaningful support” for our trade. This does not mean we are simply seeking monetary grants to be awarded as there are other ways in which the council could be lending support to our trade. We note the recent decision of the Licensing and Regulatory Committee in delaying the implementation of the requirement for SQA certification for licence renewals until January 2022. This is one such example and we wholeheartedly thank the L&R Committee members for this. Another area of regulation that the council has the authority to decide on, which if changed would go a long way in supporting our trade, is the age limit imposed on private hire vehicles. The current limit is set at seven years. This is one of the strictest limits in the country with local authorities surrounding Glasgow having an age limit of ten years. This particular policy was last reviewed fifteen years ago in 2006 and has not been seriously discussed by the council since then. We are aware that the policy is currently suspended in Glasgow, however as we moveout of the pandemic, every indication seems to be that we will return to the prior status quo. The major issue with this is that the financial performance of drivers has been severely affected over the past fourteen months. When it comes to the time where vehicles are requiring to be replaced, finance companies and lenders will not look favourably upon drivers' tax returns and proof of earnings over the pandemic period. We will require a considerable amount of time to bounce back from the financial effects of the pandemic and to repair our credit ratings and financial performances. This time can be afforded to us by deciding to permanently change the age limit of private hire vehicles from seven years to, at least, 10years; providing the vehicles meet all other licensing criteria and also meet the requirements for the LEZ. Furthermore, as the fleet moves towards electric and hybrid vehicles, which are substantially more expensive and are expected to have a greater lifespan than vehicles with internal combustion engines, it would make more sense from economical and ecological points of view to allow vehicles a greater limit than seven years.
Finally, it should be noted that this policy change wouldn't place any cost burden on the council whatsoever. Additionally, increasing the age limit will probably encourage drivers to switch to net zero options (fully electric/ hydrogen) at a faster rate, meaning the council's climate change goals will be reached quicker.
Will the council commit to discussing this issue and to consider changing the age limit for private hire vehicles from seven, to at least, ten years for internal combustion powered vehicles and to consider removing the age limit requirements for more environmentally friendly vehicles?
Over the past fourteen months drivers have been reporting a dramatic loss of income. Even with the financial support that has been given, the losses are significant. 68% of drivers have reported a 70%+ reduction in turnover. At the height of lockdown restrictions, drivers were working ten to fourteen hour shifts just to turnover £30 to £40. Whilst we were allowed to continue working, demand for our trade plummeted as we rely on other industries being open for any demand to exist. Hospitality, leisure and non-essential shopping being shutdown coupled with 'work from home' orders meant that demand for our trade was severely decreased. Not to mention, that the night time economy was shut down in its entirety (and to a large degree, still is) meaning all night shift drivers had to switch to day shift which over-saturated the daytime labour force.
Essentially, all told, drivers have lost around a third of the lifespan of their licences.
Will the council commit to investigating ways to mitigate this loss, including considering an automatic extension of twelve months to be added to the expiry date of all current licences?
To reiterate and to repeat, our demands are as follows:
• For drivers in Glasgow to receive a top-up grant from discretionary funds to bring us into parity with the local authorities that have released such grants. We note, that the local authorities closest to Glasgow in geographic and economic terms have awarded a discretionary top-up of £1,500.
• For Glasgow City Council to increase the age limit of private hire vehicles from seven years to, at least, ten years for internal combustion powered vehicles and to consider removing the age limit requirements for more environmentally friendly vehicles.
• To mitigate the lost portions of our licence lifespans. We suggest this can be achieved by automatically extending all currently valid licences by a period of twelve months.
• For GCC to commit to not increasing licence fees until the coronavirus pandemic is truly behind us.
If the above demands are met then we will view that as “proper and meaningful” support to have, finally, been delivered. However, we are also seeking assurances that drivers will continue to be supported through the pandemic when required if lockdown restrictions return to the city. We seek the assurance that drivers won't have to suffer the stress and anxiety of struggling to survive and that any future support being offered does not have to come as a result of months of campaigning and intervention from trade unions.
We also repeat our previous statement. We will not back down until proper and meaningful support has been delivered. Our members' chat channels have been highly active since the protest with lots of discussion about planning a second demo if our demands continue to fall on deaf ears.
We look forward to all replies,
Chair – ADCU (Glasgow & Scotland).