Taxi drivers seek higher pay

SIXTEEN Coffs Harbour taxi drivers have engaged a Sydney law firm in a pay dispute claim.

The drivers say their typical hourly income is about $12 an hour, well below the adult minimum wage for employees of $15 an hour.

The group, who all work as taxi drivers for Holiday Coast Transportation Services, are seeking discussions between their lawyer and the Coffs Coast taxi company to try to lift their pay to at least the minimum hourly wage.

The manager of Holiday Coast Transportation Services, Kevin McKenzie, said the drivers were paid in accordance with the laws in NSW and could always talk directly to management.

“No one has spoken to me about it,” Mr McKenzie said.

“My door is always open.”

The Coffs Harbour taxi drivers, who drive taxis for prescribed periods, retain 40 per cent of the gross earnings each shift, which they say leaves them struggling, so they are seeking reasonable remuneration for a reasonable day’s work.

Solicitor Chris McArdle from McArdle Legal, who is acting for the drivers, said most of them were on ‘bailee’ agreements so they were contractors rather than employees.

The drivers are saying they will co-operate fully with the taxi company to seek higher authorised fares if they are paid more for their work.

Transport Workers Union Newcastle and Northern Secretary Mick Forbes said because drivers basically hired the taxi vehicle to make money, they were outside award agreements and minimum hours regulations.

He said many drivers, especially in metropolitan areas, were new migrants who were nervous of confrontation with the taxi companies, fearing they would lose their jobs or have their hours curtailed and a campaign several years ago had drawn little support.

Mr Forbes said taxi co-ops and owners argued that bringing the drivers under a minimum wage award would put up taxi fares to an unaffordable level.

“The only thing that will assist them in the long run is change in legislation,” he said.

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