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Minicab drivers strike over safety concerns following murder of London Bolt driver

by Marienna Pope-Weidemann
03 March 2021 09:35
  • Private hire drivers strike today in memory of IWGB member and private hire driver Gabriel Bringye who was murdered on 17 February while working for app-based private hire company Bolt.
  • 17.00-19.00 drivers will switch off apps, light candles and display placards on their vehicles to commemorate Gabriel and demand better protections for drivers.
  • Live streamed press conference at 17.00 at the memorial on Jarrow Road in Tottenham where Gabriel was found, with drivers available for interview.
  • IWGB says assault and abuse is endemic in the sector and is calling for improved health and safety measures.

Wednesday 3 March: Private hire drivers will go on strike today against multiple operators including Bolt, Uber, Free Now and Ola. Drivers will switch off all apps 17.00-19.00 and in small groups park their cars, light candles and place placards on their vehicles. They are demanding improved safety protections and commemorating Gabriel Bringye, a member of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain’s (IWGB) United Private Hire Drivers branch, who was stabbed to death while working for Bolt on 17 February in Tottenham.

A press conference will be held at Gabriel’s memorial at 17.00 today. This will also be live streamed here. The memorial is located on Jarrow Road in Tottenham where Gabriel was found, on the turning towards Ferry Lane Primary School. Drivers from the IWGB and local Romanian community will speak and be available for media interviews. The IWGB is working closely with Gabriel’s family whose attendance is still to be confirmed.

Meanwhile, drivers will picket in multiple locations in compliance with Covid regulations. This strike is organised by a coalition of informal Romanian driver groups, supported by the IWGB and is part of the Gabriel’s Life Matters campaign.

Assaults and abusive behaviour towards drivers are a common occurrence. In an IWGB member survey the majority of drivers who responded had been physically assaulted at work and over 80 percent had experienced verbal abuse. Drivers also reported concerns over lack of support from operators and authorities when abuse takes place.

This strike launches a wider campaign for improvements in terms of driver safety and accountability from operators. The recent Supreme Court ruling against Uber classifying drivers as workers means Uber and potentially other app-based operators now have a duty of care to drivers and a legal obligation to provide health and safety protection.

Alex Marshall, President, IWGB, says: “The IWGB commits our continued solidarity with Gabriel’s family and all those affected by his death, as well as all the drivers who had to go to work today feeling unsafe and unsupported by the corporations that profit from their labour. The endemic abuse and violence in this sector is a disgrace and Gabriel’s death is a painful reminder of how devastating the consequences can be. No one can make this right but as a union we are determined to do all in our power to press for better protections for drivers so this never happens again.”

Nader Awaad, vice-chair, United Private Hire Drivers Branch (IWGB) says: “Most of my colleagues have been assaulted at work so Gabriel’s death is not only tragic but alarming. That’s why we’re calling not only for practical health and safety measures but also culture change. Passengers don’t expect to be held accountable for abusive behaviour because the model companies like Bolt and Uber promote is one where drivers have no power, no voice. As long as these operators treat us like second class citizens, denied the most basic rights, operators set a dangerous precedent: that our lives don't matter."

Demands of the IWGB United Private Hire Drivers’ Branch:

  • Operators must install a safety button for drivers’ vehicles.
  • Operators must introduce stronger ID checks for customers using taxi apps to avoid repetition of what happened to Gabriel where the passengers had created a fake account.
  • TfL must subsidise plastic screens to help protect drivers from assault and Covid-19, from which they have died in disproportionate numbers, and also subsidise fitting of compliant CCTV cameras in vehicles, which can cost drivers hundreds of pounds.
  • Operators and authorities must now make a meaningful commitment to take action over driver complaints about abusive or threatening behaviour by passengers.
  • Operators must introduce appropriate oversight for customer ratings and put an end to unfair terminations in line with ACAS recommendations to ensure drivers are not discouraged from raising concerns or taking appropriate action to protect their safety.

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