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London taxi jobs saved with hours to go

12 December 2011

Just before 9 o'clock at night on 22 November, over 100 staff working in the London Taxi & Private Hire Office (LTPH) received an email containing the news that their jobs had been saved.

taxi

This u-turn followed a surprise announcement by TfL just three weeks earlier that the licensing and compliance functions of LTPH were to be outsourced to a commercial company. This would have meant a cut in jobs and relocation of staff to either Coventry or Northampton.

The dramatic u-turn was announced just hours before the TfL Finance Board was due to discuss the proposal at a 9.30am meeting the following morning. TfL and Boris Johnson's last-minute change of heart was down to a lively campaign organised by TSSA members and reps working in conjunction with London cab drivers, who gave their full backing to the staff of the LTPH. 'We're behind you 100 per cent' said Grant Davies of the London Cab Drivers' Club (LCDC), 'If it affects you, then it affects us'. Overwhelming support was also received from other cab drivers' unions and groups, including RMT, Unite and the United Cabbies Group (UCG), who all carried the story in their newspapers and blogs and joined TSSA members in protesting outside TfL's head office.

The Taxi and Private Hire Office is responsible for licensing approximately 22,000 black cabs and 50,000 private hire vehicles in London. This involves checking the safety and security of both drivers and their vehicles. The office also deals with on-street compliance, including policing of unlicensed taxis (or 'touts' as they're known by cabbies), and following up on any complaints about drivers or cab operators from members of the public.

TfL's own website claims that 6,000 unlicensed cab drivers have been arrested since their Safer Travel at Night (STaN) scheme began in 2003, and that there were 143 cab-related sexual offences reported in 2009/10. It therefore beggars belief that they should seek to save money on such a key service, and is a shocking and cynical pursuit of political ideology by the Mayor of London to privatise and save money with no regard for the consequences.

With our concern for public safety as well as preserving London jobs, TSSA is now working with the London cab drivers and campaigning organisations, such as the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, to launch a community-wide campaign in support of comprehensive licensing and regulation of taxis and private hire vehicles in London. During our campaign against the outsourcing we became aware that, following a 'reorganisation' of the LTPH office during the last year, there are only 24 day-time and 6 night-time compliance officers employed by TfL to regulate over 70,000 licensed vehicles (and who knows how many unlicensed cabs). Together for Transport will be seeking to highlight this shortfall and will campaign for a better resourced service.

Keeping the LTPH office and jobs in London is a real achievement, both for TSSA and the cab drivers. Nevertheless, we cannot afford to be complacent because TfL is currently involved in a major cost-cutting exercise – badged 'Project Horizon' – and has already stated their intention to outsource their Travel Information lines following the Olympics. We know that this would mean job cuts and a drop in services but, following our victory at LTPH, we know that we can fight them and win.

Mel Taylor, TSSA Organiser

For more information on TSSA's work on Project Horizon see www.tssa.org.uk/tfl.

 

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