Taxi drivers hold 24-hour national stoppage

 

Taxi drivers are holding a 24-hour stoppage today in protest over conditions in the industry.

There were no reports of major traffic disruption as a result of the stoppage which began at 4am today and will continue until 4am tomorrow. Protesting drivers tonight vowed to step up their campaign for better working conditions.

The protest is likely to mean that few taxis will be available nationally, although the unions have said that they will still provide services in emergency cases.

Members of the Irish Taxi Drivers’ Federation, National Private Hire Taxi Association, Siptu taxi branch, and Taxi Drivers for Change are picketing popular taxi ranks in Dublin, Cork and Galway.

The National Taxi Drivers’ Union (NTDU) is not officially part of the protest as there was not sufficient time to ballot members under its union rules. However, NTDU president Tommy Gorman said drivers are unlikely to work during the other unions’ protest.

Taxi Drivers for Change said it will be occupying ranks in Dublin and in cities and larger towns, using vehicles to take up space on ranks, but refusing to take fares. They will stop drivers who don’t take part in the protest from using ranks to ply for hire.

The drivers for change group is not a union but has a growing membership nationally, many of whom are members of established unions.

Spokesman Jim Waldron said nine out of 10 taxi drivers around the country backed its day of action.

“Around 500 men took part in the picketing of ranks and we had 90 per cent support throughout the industry,” said Mr Waldron.

“There was a lot of interest and anger.

“Most drivers did not pass the pickets and respected the protestors so obviously we had an effect."

According to AA Roadwatch, the protests are not currently having an impact on traffic although it warned that this could change as the morning progresses.

Unions warned of an escalation earlier this month following a meeting with Minister for Transport Noel Dempsey where he refused to reject a report, compiled by Goodbody Economic Consultants, which recommended against a moratorium on the issuing of new licences.

John Ussher, president of the Irish Taxi Drivers’ Federation, which organised today’s protest, said the union had tried the diplomatic route with the Minister and taxi regulator Kathleen Doyle but this had failed. “We feel that an obstacle course is constantly being put in our way.”

Siptu taxi representative Jerry Brennan said the Goodbody report had been “the last straw” which made protests inevitable.