Cardiff could be left without taxis after cabbies threaten to strike over council crackdown

Cardiff’s Hackney Driver Association said its members will strike on four nights in April because of their unhappiness with new guidance issued by Cardiff council

Cardiff’s Hackney Driver Association said its members will strike over two weekends

Clubbers and partygoers in Cardiff could be left without taxis on four weekend nights this month after cabbies threatened to go on strike.

The city’s Hackney Driver Association said members are planning to take action on April 15 and 16 and April 22 and 23 because of their unhappiness with a council crackdown.

The planned move would hit taxicabs – black cab-style services that can be hailed on the street – but would not affect private hire drivers.

It comes after the council clamped down on taxi complaints in the wake of a series of reported sex attacks in the capital last year.

In September, concerns were raised that lone women had been refused journeys by drivers which they deemed to be too short a distance.

As a result, Cardiff council issued guidance from the head of the licensing committee, Councillor Jacqueline Parry, saying that if anyone felt they were wrongly turned down for a journey they should take the driver’s details and report them.

The council subsequently announced 90 complaints were made within three weeks.

But the association says these complaints were simply a result of the increased number of people visiting the city for the Rugby World Cup .

“The alleged victims have never stated in any interviews that they had to walk home because the taxi drivers refused to take them home , based on the ground that the journey was too short,” said Mathab Khan, chairman of the Cardiff Hackney Carriage Association.

“The council received some 90 complaints in three weeks mainly during the Rugby World cup tournament, when 70,000 to 100,000 rugby fans filled up every nook and cranny of the city especially whenever Wales was playing at home or away, and most of them are fairly drunk and some of them are heavily drunk or too drunk to travel in taxis.

“Hence the degree of complaints increased significantly, due to the fact that there was 10 times more people in the city, compared to the amount of people we normally have in any given time, and most of them were heavily under the influence of alcohol.”

The group alleged that drivers have been punished unfairly – with five drivers since having their licences suspended.

And it claimed those complaints had been dealt with through the council’s licensing sub-committee to “punish the drivers with a vengeance” in a forum which requires a “lesser level of scrutiny” than if they had been pursued through a court hearing.

Mr Khan said: “Unless the full committee of Cardiff council ceases such malpractice with immediate effect and remove Councillor Jacqueline Parry [committee chairwoman] and Dave Holland [Head of Service – Regulatory & Supporting Services] from their position immediately, we will be considering industrial action on Friday, April 15, and Saturday, April 16, between midnight till 4am and will repeat on April 22 and 23.”

Cardiff council has defended its right to take disciplinary action against individuals who refuse a fare without good reason, and explained its reasoning behind pursuing complaints through a committee rather than through a prosecution.

A spokesman said: “Last autumn the issue of refusal of fares became prominent in the local media and the council received many complaints. Council officers decided to deal with these by taking them to the Public Protection Committee to consider potential disciplinary action. This was in view of the volume of complaints, public concern, the committee’s function to protect vulnerable members of the travelling public, and the desire to simplify the process for the complainant, who is the ultimately the service user.

“During the time in question, the council did appeal to the taxi trade to take vulnerable women home. A view shared by Mr Khan’s media statement on September 27, which stated that ‘99.9% of drivers were helpful ’ and ‘Our (Hackney Carriage Association) advice to our drivers is to be as helpful as you possibly can, especially when it comes to lone female students. We say ‘Please take them, they are vulnerable’.

“Rather than threatening strike action, we would advise all drivers to understand and abide by their licensing conditions, or face enforcement action for breaching the law.”

source: http://www.walesonline.co.uk/