Over 200 private hire drivers and operators attended a meeting in the Birmingham’s Council House on 11th August, to voice their concerns about driver safety.
The event was organised by Respect Cllr Salma Yaqoob following the murder of cab driver Mohammed Arshad (pictured left) two weeks ago and was addressed by union and police representatives, licensing chiefs and city councillors.
The meeting commenced with a minute’s silence in memory of the 36-year-old father-of-three who, according to the meeting chairwoman Cllr Salma Yaqoob, was a “completely innocent man killed in a most disgusting and brutal way”.
Cllr Yaqoob explained that she called the meeting because since Mr Arshad’s murder she had been inunduated with calls from taxi-drivers concerned about the safety of their profession and anxious that the city authorities were not taking those concerns seriously enough.
Drivers complained that they were treated like ‘second class citizens’ by the Police. Racist abuse and assault was a common experience yet when drivers these the response was poor. Two senior West Midlands Police officers present apologised for the inconsistent response of the police and agreed to take the message of the meeting back to the “very top”.
Cab drivers have called for new measures to protect themselves including security cameras, safety screens, convex mirrors, a police hotline and a city-wide blacklist of violent customers. City council head of licensing Pete Barrow added that such measures can ‘be allowed by the licensing committee, but there is still the problem of cost. We will see if there is funding for at least a contribution to the costs.”
Wasim Zaffer, of the Unite union representing cab drivers, said that private hire adds £3 billion a year to the UK economy.
“It should stop being treated like a third-rate industry. There are more than 5,000 drivers in Birmingham, we need to have our concerns heard,” he said.
Both he and Cllr Salma Yaqoob reteriatied the need for private hire drivers to join a union. One driver commented that if the authorities did not respond to their concerns cabbies would ‘strike and bring the city to a standstill’.
The meeting ended with a commitment from Cllr Yaqoob to reconvene again shortly to review what action had been taken on the proposals of the cab drivers.
Article: Cabbies in call for beter security after driver stabbing in Birmingham – Neil Elkes, Birmingham Post, 11.08.09