Taxi protests likely to spread - union

Fri, Apr 25, 2008, 01:00

As taxi drivers in Waterford and Limerick take to the streets in separate protests this afternoon, the National Taxi Drivers Union (NTDU) has warned that stoppages in other parts of the country are likely over the coming weeks and months.

Speaking this afternoon, the NTDU's president Tommy Gorman said that there was widespread anger from drivers over the issuing of taxi licences.

The Waterford Taxi Association is currently embroiled in an ongoing dispute with Waterford City Council on the shortage of rank spaces in the city centre and is currently staging a two-hour stoppage in the city.

Taxi drivers have claimed that their livelihoods are at risk due to a lack of available taxi rank spaces in Waterford and today's protest is the latest in a long line of stoppages staged by drivers.

Waterford City Council acknowledges that there has been an almost 900 per cent increase in the number of taxis plying for hire in the city since de-regulation of taxi licences in 2003.

However, earlier this month, it said that while it was aware of the taxi drivers concerns, it wasn’t in a position to increase the number of taxi ranks in the city centre as the space simply does not exist.

Elsewhere, a protest is to be held in Limerick later this afternoon over the issuing of licences to part-time drivers.

Full-time taxi drivers in the city claim that their jobs are at risk because there is almost double the number of licenced operators in the city than there should be. Drivers have called for a complete work stoppage by all taxis from 3pm onwards.

Mr Gorman claimed today that Commissioner for Taxi Regulation, Kathleen Doyle, seemed to be more interested in accruing revenue from the issuing of new licences than in safeguarding the livelihoods of those who are already employed as taxi drivers.

The NTDU claims that over 200 licences are currently being issued each month and says that €32 million in revenues have been acquired from the issuing of licenses since September 2006.

“Kathleen Doyle only seems to be interested in consumers and there seems to be a complete lack of interest in looking after the drivers who provide the services to the public,” said Mr Gorman.

"She continues to issue licences despite there being enough taxis on the road. There’s so much anger over this from drivers that I expect that the protests we’re seeing today will spread nationwide unless proper measures are introduced to resolve the problem,” he added.