Private hired drivers in London, many of whom work for Uber, published a “pre-action” letter Friday threatening to sue mayor Sadiq Khan for racial discrimination unless he overturns a decision to charge the drivers a £12.50 ($15.22) daily congestion charge for driving in the city.
The central London congestion charge first launched in February 2003 as a means to reduce traffic, encourage the use of public transportation, and reduce greenhouse emissions.
What Independent Worker’s Union of Great Britain (IWGB), which issued the letter and has also launched a fundraising campaign, is not happy about is that black cabs are exempt from paying the fee that private drivers have been asked to pony up for come April.
A government report from Transport for London that was published in December found that 94% of minicab, Uber, and other hired drivers are people of color. According to the report, “many are from deprived areas, there is a disproportionate impact on these groups.”
IWGB wrote in its letter that a whopping 71% of black cab drivers, who would be exempt from the tax, “come from a ‘white’ background.”
Yahoo notes that a majority of black cab drivers are both white and of British descent—compared to just 6% of private drivers.
IWGB secretary Dr Jason Moyer-Le told the BBC that the plan was “regressive” and “both discriminatory and fundamentally unfair”—potentially violating the Equality Act 2010 that protects against indirect discrimination.
When asked about the backlash, a spokesperson for the mayor told CNBC that Khan “simply isn’t prepared to ignore the damaging impact this has on congestion and increasing air pollution. Congestion has a crippling impact on businesses across the capital.”
Khan didn’t address the discrimination charges, but did tweet about how pollution was impacting London Friday.
Mayor Khan has had a complicated relationship with Uber, calling on his right to cap the number of drivers in London.
IWGB’s letter gave Khan until March 6 to resolve the policy before the union takes the issue to the High Court for examination.