Trafalgar Square was at the centre of the protest were around 800 black cabs supported the demonstration against minicab touting, which puts people at risk, especially women the UGC say.
Bob Crow, General Secretary of the RMT Union, attended the demonstration in a display of solidarity with the taxi union.
“The licensed taxi trade in London is under an unprecedented attack and that’s why RMT members in the industry are working for maximum unity to defend jobs, safety and the quality of service to the public,” Crow said.
Cab driver and UCG spokesperson, Jonathan Myers, said he believed that nearly 4,000 black cabs had attended the protest as parts of the city, including Victoria Street, Fleet Street, Shaftesbury Avenue, Pall Mall and Trafalgar Square – were either gridlocked or closed because of the protests.
The UCG believes that the London Taxi and Private hire (formerly the Public Carriage Office), Transport for London (TFL) and the taxi licensing body are not paying attention or enforcing the law regarding licensed and unlicensed minicabs.
However, earlier in the day TFL released a statement calling for the demonstration to be cancelled, “The group’s justification for the protest is based on inaccurate and false claims about London Taxi and Private Hire and the work it undertakes to provide a safe service for the public.”
The UCG believes that private hire operating centres have been encouraged by the TFL, where minicabs can wait to be booked by customers who are just passing back. The union argues that this is not in line with the hackney carriage law which states that private hire vehicles or minicabs covered with private hire insurance must not wait to be hired in view of the public.
The union also believes that this has led to an increase on women being sexually assaulted, as the number of sexual attacks on woman travelling in unlicensed and licensed private hire vehicles has increased by 54% in 2010, according to the UGC.
A London cab driver for 8 years, Jason Cook, took part in the protest and said “We see it all over, there’s a lot of vulnerable people out there and they get taken advantage of. I’ve got daughters, I’ve got a wife, and my heart would skip a beat if I thought they were going to get in one of those cars [minicabs].
“They’re being preyed upon outside clubs and bars and pubs. It’s unscrupulous people out there taking advantage and that’s the reason why we’re protesting.
“We’re not doing it to give everyone the hump. We want to make a valid point because there are women out there getting attacked. It’s a fact.”
Director of London Taxi and Private Hire, Jason Mason, said, “It is deeply regretful that a small and isolated group, who do not represent the views of taxi drivers across London, feel the need to stage this demonstration.
“In staging this protest these taxi drivers will be wilfully disrupting the travelling public, the very people they are supposed to serve.”
A black cab driver who didn’t want to be named, said that “The [black] cab trade is over 100 years old, it’s built a reputation up with the public and we want to protect that. The public trust us, they see the yellow light and they think we’re trust worthy and they rely on us.
“People come up to me with their children and ask me to take them to school.