Leeds private hire drivers protest photo Iain Dalton
Leeds private hire drivers protest photo Iain Dalton

Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party

Not one, but two groups of workers lobbied Leeds City Council on 23 March. The larger gathering – 500 private hire drivers – followed strikes and go-slows. The council has broken its promise and refused to review its Suitability and Convictions Policy.

This was adopted on the basis of improving passenger safety, but carries severe penalties for drivers, leaving them suspended for months, unable to drive their taxis, with no income. For example, a driver who was racially abused by a passenger, who challenged such abuse, could be suspended if a complaint was made against them!

Seething anger towards the Labour council was present, with placards stating “Don’t Vote Labour”, and several speeches to the same affect. Many of the drivers, particularly those from a Pakistani or Kashmiri background, feel that their votes are taken for granted by Labour. Although GMB pulled out of jointly calling the demo, many drivers who are members of that union still attended.

While some platform speeches talked about voting any party except Labour and the Tories, Socialist Party members on the demonstration leafleted with the appeal for trade unionists to stand themselves in elections. We also explained how the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) banner was available to workers to stand on a common socialist and anti-austerity basis rather than simply appearing as independents.

Hitachi Zosen Inova facility – more broken Labour promises

Members of GMB and Unite the Union also gathered outside the council on 23 March against an energy-to-waste facility being constructed outside the union-agreed ‘NAECI’ terms, which the council had previously pledged to insist on – another Labour betrayal.