Bank Holiday MAYHEM
Taxi strike leaves May Day revellers stranded
Bank holiday Monday is one of the busiest nights of the year for pubs and clubs across the country, welcoming in thousands of visitors from across the local area.
However, what are usually the packed streets of Wakefield on a ‘three-day-weekend’, turned out to be rather quiet last Sunday as a taxi strike in the city caused travel mayhem for visitors.
In total, 4,500 drivers were reportedly on strike throughout the night across the whole of the Wakefield district – from 6pm on Sunday 4th May to 6am Monday 5th May – with 33 taxi companies and 126 hackney carriage vehicles refusing service.
Services in Leeds, Kirklees and other surrounding councils also provided limited service to the area following a dispute over legislation and rising costs.
The action was taken after plans were proposed earlier this year for an extra vehicle check to be introduced to every driver in the Wakefield area each year.
This would take the total number of tests up to three a year, costing around £200 each time, on top of an annual MOT.
A letter sent out to drivers in March this year also suggested new legislation could be introduced which would remove any cars seven years or older from such service.
Yasar Ahmad, of the UK Fleet, Wakefield, was one of the orchestrators of the event and said it could have been avoided if the driver’s demands had of been heard at a previous date.
“These extra costs would put Wakefield at the top of the most expensive councils in the country for taxi drivers, and we are already paying more than cities such as Leeds and London,” he said.
“This strike had to happen because we have been told for too long by our Labour MP that they want to help, yet now they are talking about introducing even more charges.
“As well as refusing service we also carried out a slow drive protest in the city which really affected traffic in the city centre.”
Despite receiving support from a number of other agencies, Mr Ahmad also accepted that there would be people who did not back the strike.
“Understandably this strike has affected everyday people who wanted to go into Wakefield for bank holiday,” he said.
“This was the only way we could physically show how important our services are on one of the busiest days of the year.”
Complaints were also made about the strike by some other taxi drivers who say they were unaware of any industrial action, and were threatened and intimidated when entering Wakefield.
One driver from Amber Cars, Leeds, who wishes to remain anonymous, said he was twice stopped in the city with threats made against him and his car.
Speaking to the Asian Express, he said: “I wasn’t aware of any strikes taking place in the city so when I got a call to say a student ordered a pick up from Wakefield to Leeds I set off as usual.
“I was then stopped by a group of four men who told me ‘you can’t be flagging around here’. They threatened to damage my car if I worked in the area. It was very intimidating to be honest.”
A second strike is now planned to commence on Monday 11th May between 7am and 11am, likely to affect school traffic and work commuters. A slow drive protest will also be held in the city centre.