Dispute: Coffs cab drivers want a 50/50 deal.
Dispute: Coffs cab drivers want a 50/50 deal. Trevor Veale

Taxi pay dispute continues

TAXI drivers should be splitting fares 50/50 with taxi owners, says veteran Coffs Harbour taxi driver Darryl Wallbridge.

Mr Wallbridge, who has been driving taxis in Coffs Harbour for 31 years, said drivers in most other regional cities share the takings evenly with taxi owners.

He said Coffs Harbour’s 40/60 split existed only in a few areas of high unemployment where drivers were too frightened of losing work to speak out about their conditions.

“Coffs Harbour has the wealthiest cab owners in Australia and the poorest drivers,” he said.

“Working 46 hours a week, you are lucky to earn $600 a week.”

He said investors were also losing touch with the realities of the industry.

“There are only four owners who drive their own cabs,” Mr Wallbridge said. “I’ve never been to a cab owners’ meeting.”

Sixteen Coffs Harbour taxi drivers have engaged a Sydney law firm to act for them in an attempt to achieve higher returns for their work, saying their typical earnings for a full week’s work is $12 an hour, well below the minimum wage of $15 an hour.

The group members are all contract drivers for Holiday Coast Transportation Services who has said the 40/60 split is in line with NSW laws.

The Coffs Harbour drivers taking the action are contractors working under bailee contracts, where they hire the taxi vehicle for a prescribed period and retain 40 per cent of their earnings. The other 60 per cent goes to the taxi owner.

A former Coffs Harbour taxi owner, who did not want to be identified, said he felt sorry for drivers working early-morning shifts, where they could sit on the rank for four hours and take virtually nothing.

But drivers made good money on Friday and Saturday night shifts, so they had to ‘take the good with the bad’. “The owners pay for the fuel, registration, insurance, maintenance and repairs,” he said.

“When they have a cab off the road the owners make nothing – I had a cab off the road for two weeks after an accident and I couldn’t claim anything, but drivers can drive for other cab owners.”

Mr Wallbridge said the drivers were among the city’s poorest workers and a 50/50 split would make an enormous difference to their lives, without significantly affecting owners’ profits.

Another Coffs Harbour taxi owner, who also did not want to be identified, said there were some sad stories in the industry and he sympathised with drivers who were poorly treated, but drivers with good shifts were making a lot more money than $12 an hour.



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