Taxi drivers say working conditions in Northampton are 'driving them into poverty'

The drivers say that Bounds' fleet has got too large for the number of jobs available in the town.
The drivers say that Bounds' fleet has got too large for the number of jobs available in the town.

More than one hundred Northampton taxi drivers marched on their own offices today to protest against rent fees and low wages "driving them into poverty".

The pick-up-point outside Bounds Taxis in Bradshaw Street was overwhelmed with drivers who claim the firm's working conditions has pushed them to graft up to 70 hours a week to make the minimum wage.

Protesters gathered outside Bounds Taxis in Bradshaw Street today.

Protesters gathered outside Bounds Taxis in Bradshaw Street today.

Bounds has around 350 drivers on its books - but cabbies say the company's ever-growing fleet means there is now not enough work available for everyone to make a living.

Now, they are calling for Bounds to stop hiring any more drivers and work to cut the costs each driver pays just to work in Northampton.

Bounds Taxis declined to comment on the protest today.

It comes ahead of a court case next week where two drivers, Mr Shafqat Shah and Mr Samuel Adjei, are suing the firm for workers' rights.

The protest was organised by the United Private Hire Drivers union.

The protest was organised by the United Private Hire Drivers union.

Mr Shah told the Chronicle & Echo: "We're here to fight for our rights.

"Drivers on average are working 12 hour days, seven days a week. The firm says we're self-employed and it's our choice, but we don't have a choice if we want to make a living.

"What kind of self-employed work is this?"

The protest - organised by the United Private Hire Drivers union - say high number of drivers and low number of jobs means they can make on average only £120 for over 10 hours on the road.

Two drivers, Mr Samuel Adjei (left) and Mr Shafqat Shah (centre), are taking Bounds to court for workers' rights.

Two drivers, Mr Samuel Adjei (left) and Mr Shafqat Shah (centre), are taking Bounds to court for workers' rights.

But take from that the £30-a-day expenses for fuel, car insurance plus the £175-per-week "radio rent" fees to work for Bounds and cabbies say they are no longer taking home a minimum wage.

Outside the Bounds offices today, protesters beat drums and blared megaphones while waving union flags. Other taxis sounded their horns as they passed the crowd.

Mr Shah said: "There are now too many drivers in Northampton and not enough work to go around. It's fine for Bounds because they have lots of drivers to send out and a fast response time. They still make their money. But for the drivers our income is going down.

"When you look at who is here today many of these drivers are Black or Asian. And I'm saying we feel discriminated against."

The drivers are asking for a 5 minimum fare and a commission-based fee system to work for Bounds instead of flat fees.

The drivers are asking for a 5 minimum fare and a commission-based fee system to work for Bounds instead of flat fees.

A letter was also reportedly sent to Bounds owner Mr David Wright. It asks for a £5 minimum fare on jobs, a freeze on hiring more drivers and for Bounds to instead collect fees on a 15 per cent commission basis instead of a flat fee for drivers.

Although the company declined to comment today, when the Chronicle & Echo first reported on the legal action in July this year, a spokesperson for the company said there were systems in place to achieve a high level of service.

"We, like every firm in the country, charge a fixed fee and supply the driver bookings. We do not stipulate what time they start or finish, the agreement allows them to come and go as they wish and there are no restrictions on the number of hours they can work or the number of bookings they can receive.

"We must stress that each and every driver is self-employed and has the choice to move to another company any time they wish.

"The majority stay with us as we have, being the largest fleet, the ability to provide a far quicker service than most and consequently have secured a much larger percentage of the work within the town.

"It, therefore, follows that they have the potential to increase their earnings."

Pictures by Louise Smith.

Pictures by Louise Smith.

The union said that a manager also conducts random checks on the road to ensure the drivers are complying with company policy, including the dress code policy.

The Bounds spokesperson added: "Safety is a major consumer factor, and with that in mind, we try to ensure that the vehicles our customers travel in meet the regulations set down by the Licensing Department of the Borough Council. "