Scotland – A survey commissioned by the union which involves hundreds of taxi drivers all over Scotland confirms the hardship faced by many drivers, as the trade union repeats its calls for greater financial assistance in what is traditionally the busiest time of the year for the trade.
An online survey of over 200 taxi drivers has revealed the devastating impact on the trade with many harrowing stories from drivers who are struggling to financially survive. Many drivers are regularly working 16-17-hour days with a shift being determined as having been ‘good’ if £50 is cleared.
The Unite Scotland survey shows that only 30% of drivers have been unable to access any financial help from government support schemes. For those that have been able to access financial help from government:
· 37% report that it represents less than 25% of their average earnings.
· 18% report that it represents between 25% – 50% of their average earnings.
· 20% report that it represents between 50% – 75% of their average earnings.
Unite Scotland is demanding the Scottish Government adopt similar targeted schemes such as in Northern Ireland and Wales to support the taxi trade. In Northern Ireland, taxi drivers can get a £1500 grant as part of a £19m support fund. The trade union is also asking that the £30 million discretionary fund announced by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on 17 November for local authorities be released immediately in order to provide support for businesses and taxi drivers.
Unite Scotland has criticised ‘loopholes’ in a number of Scottish and UK Government schemes which have led to drivers being unable to access financial support, which the survey findings substantiate because they do not have rateable premises or operate business bank accounts. If drivers are not in receipt of Universal Credit or legacy benefits then they are also ineligible for the £500 self-isolation support grant.
Unite Scotland is proposing a series of measures to help support the trade and taxi drivers including:
· A dedicated scheme providing grant support to self-employed/full time taxi drivers.
· The suspension of licensing fees that are payable to local councils for the next 12 months.
· The Scottish Government to engage directly with finance companies to negotiate a reduction in increased debt due to payment holidays.
· Access to NHS mental health services to support drivers.
Unite Scottish Secretary, Pat Rafferty, said: “The stories shared by taxi drivers in our survey is heartbreaking and clearly shows a trade in crisis. The reality is behind the figures there are workers and families across Scotland who are in despair. Taxi drivers are reporting on average around an 80 per cent income reduction with nearly a third having been unable to access any government financial. With lockdowns continuing across the nation during what is traditionally the busiest time of the year at Christmas and New Year it’s clear that greater support is urgently needed. We need politicians to listen and act now.”
Scottish Labour leader, Richard Leonard, said: “Nicola Sturgeon promised MSPs last week that financial aid would be paid in the ‘very near future’ to taxi drivers and that the money would start to ‘flow’.
“There must be no further delay to payments being made, as it’s clear from Unite’s findings that taxi drivers can’t wait any longer.
“Unite has provided evidence from the frontline that fares and bookings are dramatically down on their usual pre-Christmas takings
“Taxi drivers are facing real hardship, so Nicola Sturgeon needs to be as good as her word and let the money flow.
“I first raised this with the Scottish Government nearly a month ago.
“However, despite Nicola Sturgeon’s promise of financial support, my office is still being inundated with queries from taxi drivers about when this will be forthcoming.
“The First Minister needs to show the same urgency and generosity as the Welsh government, which is making grants of up to £4,000 available for taxi drivers.
“Scotland’s cabbies deserve the same level of support.”