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More than 5,000 taxi drivers are expected to descend on Whitehall on 10 February in a protest over popular private hire app Uber and "passenger safety". Unite members have accused the government of a "race to the bottom" over the rules and regulations around the trade in London.
The union alleged that Transport for London's (TfL) consultation into private hire vehicles, which closed in December, was "influenced" by the Conservative Business Secretary Sajid Javid. TfL, among other things, dropped a proposal for private hire vehicle operators to wait at least five-minutes between rides.
Unite also claimed that the taxi market was now "flooded" thanks to the surge in the number of private hire vehicles on the capital's roads.
Jim Kelly, chair of the Unite London and Eastern taxi cab section, argued: "It is clear that the government, London mayor Boris Johnson and the Tory candidate for mayor Zac Goldsmith have all seriously taken against the black taxi trade in London; a taxi trade which consistently comes out top in terms of value and service compared to other cities around the globe.
"We feel that Uber exploits its drivers by using their self-employed status to extract maximum income from them which translates to those drivers working long hours. The reduction in safety for passengers because of the 'light touch' regime is to be deplored. It is a race-to-the bottom – when in 2016 we want the highest possible standards."
The demo, which is also organised by the United Cabbies Group, is planned to take place at 2.30pm GMT in Whitehall. The protest will come after members of the RMT stage a "go-slow-around" demonstration near the Houses of Parliament from 1.30pm on 9 February.
"If elected as Mayor, I will stand up for black cabs and help them do what they do best – provide one of the safest and most convenient forms of transport in London," Goldsmith said.
"This is an important first step in levelling the playing field and delivering greater choice and convenience for Londoners. The election in May is about who will keep their promises, and this is my pledge to protect our much loved cabs and help them survive long into the future."
Transport for London, the Department for Transport, the Department for Business and Uber had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.
As an "olive branch" Uber are letting black cab drivers in London use their app commission-free for 12 months.