The NSW Government must act to reform the entire taxi system and put fairness, safety and community standards at the heart of what has long been a deeply dysfunctional industry.
That’s the word from Transport Workers Union (TWU) NSW Secretary Michael Aird, speaking in response to calls by the NSW State Opposition to regulate Uber.
“For too long passengers and drivers have been taken for a ride by both the taxi industry and Uber,” Aird charged.
“Whether it’s the taxi bailment system designed for 19th century pony and traps still operating today, or the 21st century ride-booking app where drivers have no rights and there are no community safety standards, both systems are broken and in desperate need of reform.”
Aird said the NSW State Government needed to tackle Uber head-on.
“Right now, Uber seems to be operating with a nod and a wink from the NSW authorities and this needs to change. We need the authorities to step up and reform the system – allowing opportunities for new operators to legally enter the market, provided they sign up to stringent community standards and a level playing field.
“While the precise details would need to be worked out, we envisage that this would mean a fair employment relationship between drivers and operators, with regulations around minimum pay and conditions, and community standards of safety, licensing and auditing.”
The existing taxi industry must also be held to these same standards, Aird said.
“In some areas, the taxi industry has been operating like a cartel, sucking up profits at the expense of passengers and drivers.
“While passengers have long been getting shafted on taxi fares, in many cases the money hasn’t been going to the cabbie. Taxi drivers in NSW can earn as little as AUD 7.55 an hour – no wonder some cabbies are forced to drive crazy hours in un-roadworthy cars just to put food on the table.
“The TWU NSW has long sought sensible changes to the current system in the NSW Industrial Relations Commission to address low pay, non-payment of entitlements and other issues. But at every turn we’ve been opposed by the Taxi Council.
“What we need is for all sides – drivers, traditional and new operators, and the State Government – to work together to set standards that will see an end to exploitation of drivers and the best outcomes for passengers across the State,” Aird said.
The TWU NSW is calling for tripartite arrangements that provide the following:
- Fair pay, conditions and safety standards for all drivers across the industry;
- A fair and realistic employment/contractual relationship that provides legal rights to drivers;
- Community standards around registration, licensing and vehicle maintenance; and,
- Enforceable and independent auditing provisions for all operators, combined with education and training for drivers.
A report commissioned for the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Authority (IPART) in 2012 found that taxi drivers in NSW were earning as little as AUD 7.55 per hour on some shifts.
Edited by William Sykes