Northern Lights: Sheffield has been served by fantastic hardworking taxi drivers
Today, thousands of people in Sheffield, from all socio-economic groupings, daily rely on taxis to get around.
Sheffield has down the years, been served by fantastic hardworking taxi drivers and their taxi companies, all of whom have met effectively and successfully, the transport needs of individual customers, as well as undertaking commissioned contracts for our public authorities, community organisations and businesses too.
During COVID-19, as frontline workers, our city’s taxi drivers and the taxi companies were a lifeline for our communities, ferrying food and drink to families who were housebound. Delivering medicines to homes and transporting other frontline workers to and from their places of work, as well as driving patients to hospitals and vaccination clinics. They also undertook diligently, other much needed frontline tasks that required their assistance. Each and every taxi driver and their taxi firms proved to be a vital cog in the Sheffield partnership during COVID. They contributed to keeping Sheffield going and as safe as possible. Like other frontline workers, the taxi drivers, day and night put themselves at risk for the greater good of all. These unsung heroes were taken for granted by Government, but in this City, we saw their sterling efforts and, on the ground, commended them for all they were doing for Sheffield and the Sheffield family. To this very day, the communities of Sheffield continue to recognise and appreciate the valuable contributions our taxi drivers and taxi firms make to our city, including City Taxis.
Many people in Sheffield on Sunday night just gone, will have received what likely for most, was an out of the blue message regarding a change in City Taxis’ modus operandi. This message informed them that the new name for City Taxi’s is now Veezu and that customers could still use the City Taxi telephone number but will need to download a new app.
Some others in the know, having gauged there was to be change ensuing in City Taxis, having read a Star Newspaper article in February 2023, have been, raising concern, that when the announcement was released back then, informing that City Taxis, who were ranked sixth for the size of its fleet by Taxi Summit, had become the eighth regional hub of the Veezu group, saying they had read that passengers would still be able to book rides on the City Taxis booking app, or by using the usual phone numbers and that the same friendly City drivers would continue to pick passengers up in City branded vehicles, for the same fares usually paid.
Whilst change is of course inevitable, what presents to be spooking Sheffield community members who’ve researched Veezu, is that taxi drivers in a different part of the UK, sometime ago, were sacked by Veezu for being ‘disruptive.’ These taxi drivers, went on strike over a faulty app that overcharged customers, including one customer down South £120 for a journey not warranting such a fayre being levied at them. It’s understood too, that the app concerned, has subsequently been reviewed and any problems redressed.
Adding to the concerns for those raising their worries locally, is the case of Veezu presenting last year to profile a data subject as a trade union organiser, when considering a data response to be issued. The person making the request in this instance, was also described as being ‘disruptive’ to Veezu and to Leeds Council, for seeking to secure workers’ rights, in that instance,
In addition, Veezu are currently being taken to employment tribunal by the law firm Leigh Day to contest the employment status of its 12,500 workers, whom Veezu assert are self-employed. Leigh Day however, are arguing that the drivers’ contracts are akin to full time employment, which therefore entitles them to basic employment rights including a minimum wage and holiday pay. They argue too that the drivers are not independent of the company, but operating as part of Veezu’s business, so should be entitled to basic employment rights including a minimum wage and holiday pay. Leigh Day point out, that Veezu, recruits the drivers, fixes their job fares, allocates them jobs and sanctions them for declining jobs.
If the claim proves successful, the taxi drivers working for Veezu and its partner taxi companies, will be declared workers and will be open to claiming compensation in the form of backpay covering the period of their work. This has not only employment rights implications for those concerned but for the gig economy also and massive financial implications for Veezu and its partners as well as other taxi firms.
The taxi drivers of City Taxis have been fabulous contributors to our city and it is hoped that now they are under the auspices of Veezu, that this will continue and that these taxi drivers will be properly valued and protected too in this new venture with Veezu.