Some of the 2000 taxi drivers operating in Derry have been forced to sleep in their cars as they work upwards of sixty hour weeks, while others have resorted to ‘payday loans’ to fund repairs to their vehicles in a situation which a local union representative has described as “disgraceful” and one which is putting all drivers under “severe pressure.”
In an interview in today’s Sunday Journal, Independent Workers’ Union representative Tom King, who is a taxi driver in the city claims price wars between companies are keeping the minimum fare at £2.50 and drivers are paying for it with longer hours, less money and in some cases, little or no time left to spend with their families.
“This is not a battle we want to politicise but the figures when it comes to taxi driving tell the real story,” said Mr. King.
“On average, it costs a taxi driver in Derry between £260 and £280 a week just to go to work. This is taking into account rent to an office of around £60 per week, diesel costs, insurance, servicing of the car which must be done every 6,000 miles and keeping the car clean. In a city where the minimum fare is £2.50 we have drivers working up to 70 hours a week just to get enough to keep afloat.”
Mr. King says since opening up the local branch of the Independent Workers’ Union in May he’s been inundated with local drivers who are struggling in the industry. “When people have to go to these extremes and work this many hours, it’s not safe for anyone and it’s something as a union we want to tackle. A major part of that is asking that the £2.50 fare is increased moderately to allow people to earn a decent wage,” he said.