Dundee taxi drivers with medical conditions may be hit with a £50 bill or to be exempt from a law requiring them to assist disabled passengers – or face criminal charges.
Under the 2010 Equality Act, drivers of designated wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) must carry a passenger in a wheelchair without any additional charge, carry the wheelchair if necessary and give the passenger mobility assistance. Failure to do so is classed as a criminal offence.
However, if the taxi driver has medical issues of their own, they can apply for an exemption from these duties.
Until now, Dundee City Council has not had an official process for this, instead making “informal” adjustments to drivers’ working practices.
If plans for new procedures are approved, drivers will have to pay a £50 fee for the council to process their request and issue them with an exemption certificate.
The GMB trade union has branded the plans “discriminatory” to disabled drivers.
Willie Lees, head rep for GMB’s Dundee taxi branch, said: “We feel that the £50 fee is discriminatory – people shouldn’t have to pay to go to work.
“Dundee has a mixed fleet of WAVs and saloon cars, meaning that disabled taxi drivers in WAVs would have to pay this charge, while those driving saloon cars will not, as they’re not required to assist disabled passengers in the first place.
“That means some drivers will face higher costs than others, just to be able to do their job.
“These exemptions would have to be verified by a GP, which would add extra charges – you could be looking at another £100 for them to fill in the form. So a taxi driver could be paying up to £150 for this exemption.
“The council’s taxi policy is all over the place and they’re putting the cart before the horse here.”
Following an impassioned deputation by Mr Lees, the council licencing committee deferred the matter until September, when councillors are expected to make a final decision.
Licensing committee convener Stewart Hunter said: “I understand that no one wants to have to pay a fee but the council would have to recoup the costs of processing these applications.
“Right now we can make reasonable adjustments for disabled taxi drivers, but they don’t have any official document saying they’re exempt from assisting disabled passengers.
“With this new process they would be issued with a certificate.”