A member of the Cork Taxi Council has claimed that work for Cork taxi drivers is down by ‘80%’ since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Paul Lynch has called on the Government to ensure they receive the proper financial support required.
“Our biggest obstacle is the Minister Eamon Ryan and the National Transport Authority. Minister Ryan seems to have a position and he is not going to shift. Work is definitely down 80% for taxi drivers in Cork,” he said.
Mr Lynch said the "goalposts have moved" on several occasions with regards to obstacles being placed in front of taxi drivers who were due to receive financial assistance during the pandemic.
“We were a frontline service that got the biggest kick. There was no financial aid given to taxi drivers from the very start. The PUP payment was sporadic. Initially, if your business was affected you could apply for the PUP. When taxi drivers came into it then, the goalposts seemed to move. They wanted us parked up with the stickers and roof signs taken off.
“They buttered it up by saying those on the PUP could go back to work and they will get a free licence renewal next year. They tried to buy us off with €150. The Minister is self-driven on electric vehicles. The prices of electric cars are prohibitive. They brought out a grant scheme which is flawed as it doesn’t include Hybrid cars.”
A national strike by taxi drivers which was scheduled to take place in Dublin on Thursday, April 29 was cancelled, but Paul said Cork taxi drivers are still "seething with frustration".
“Anybody that had a few pounds saved, that has long gone on paying bills. There were no payment breaks during the pandemic on the car insurance policy. Our insurance is often three or four times the amount of a normal car. I know a few people who have left the sector,” he added.
Mr Lynch said they require ‘creative thinking’ from senior figures. “We need more help from the Minister. Drivers who want to exit the business should be afforded the chance to sell their licence like publicans and trawlermen. A new driver should have the option to buy a licence from a taxi driver who is retiring. We also need a small bit of creative thinking regarding grants,” he said.
Cork TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire said he has huge sympathy for Cork taxi drivers.
A spokesperson for the Minister for Transport told: "Covid-19 has had a profound impact on small businesses. Taxi and other small public service vehicle operators, who are particularly dependent on the hospitality sectors, have faced a substantial decrease in demand for their services.
“In response to these challenges, the Government has put in place supports that can be accessed by self-employed taxi drivers including Liquidity and investment measures from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Covid-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment available to self-employed owner-operators of SPSVs.
Other measures included a Self-Employment Income Scheme which is open to self-employed operators who are eligible to earn €960 excluding relevant expenses over eight weeks and keep their PUP payment and a Covid-19 Enterprise Support Grant up to €1000 for individuals exiting the PUP payment.”
The Department spokesperson added: “The National Transport Authority has also undertaken several measures to assist operators in the industry including waivers, facilitating temporary licence suspensions and interaction with the Industry industry. The Department has provided up to €2.6 million to the NTA to enable it to waive standard vehicle licence renewal fees for 2021.
“The NTA has extended age limits for taxis twice since the start of the pandemic and currently has a proposal out for consultation to extend age limits further, which, if approved by the NTA Board, will mean that no vehicle will reach its age limit until 2022. This will ensure those taxi operators will not be required to change their vehicle while demand for taxi services remains so low due to Covid-19.”