HUNDREDS of Huddersfield taxi drivers have voted to strike over a new penalty points system.
Kirklees Council last week agreed to the regime – which would run alongside the official penalty points system governing all motorists.
From January 1, 2012, cabbies will be penalised for offences including failing to pick up a fare; driving while using a mobile and failing to wear an official badge.
Any driver who racks up 12 points in a year could be stripped of their licence.
But cabbies believe it’s unfair for them to be subject to two penalty points systems.
Some 200 private hire and hackney carriage drivers gathered at the Muslim Community Centre at Clare Hill on Monday evening to discuss the changes.
Spokesman Amjad Nadeem said: “The drivers decided unanimously that they are in favour of action, either a protest or a strike.
“There are drivers who have been working for 20 years who fear they could be victims of the system. The drivers feel it would be unfair.”
Last week the council’s Licensing and Safety Committee agreed to the new penalty points system, despite receiving a 243-name petition against the proposal.
Councillors noted that some of the names had been written in by one person.
Heckmondwike Labour man Clr Steve Hall described the petition as “an absolute joke” while Kirkburton Conservative Clr Adrian Murphy labelled it “ridiculous”.
Mr Nadeem said drivers were unhappy with the criticism.
The secretary of Kirklees Hackney Carriage Association said: “Drivers felt very angry that, despite them putting a petition in, it wasn’t looked at.
“It was a genuine petition but it was thrown out the window.”
Taxi drivers will decide what action to take against the penalty points system after a second mass meeting in Dewsbury next week.
The cabbies have won the backing of a trade union.
GMB Yorkshire Professional Drivers’ Association spokesman Tristan Chard said: “We do not believe that the limited consultation carried out by Kirklees is anywhere near good enough.
“There are laws in place to govern the trade, the introduction of this new policy is well over the top and constitutes a double whammy for drivers.
“It is a disgrace that drivers are being treated with such little respect by the council.
“In our meetings with drivers during the last two weeks, driver after driver said that they earned less than the minimum wage yet licence fees imposed by Kirklees went up and fares continued to spiral downwards.
“They are working more hours and earning less, the last thing that they need is more bureaucracy and restriction in these times of austerity.”
In May, 2009, hundreds of taxi drivers blocked streets around Huddersfield Town Hall in protest at a proposed 62% hike in licence fees.
Kirklees agreed the following month to a 28% increase instead.