22 December 2005

Mala Poist: A taxi driver’s wife writes


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I would like to make a few comments regarding the continued bombardment of the black taxis in the Andersonstown News.

In reply to your reader’s letter on December 10 asking for the black taxis to be reviewed, I totally agree but not for the reasons given by your reader, ‘Taxi User’. An explanation to that question is simple: get up out of bed earlier, lazybones.
Now and again members of the public have a stab at the black taxi driver. Maybe some deserve it, who knows? But for once, as a black taxi driver’s wife, I would like to have my say.
Some members of the general public think that by giving the black taxi driver £1 they are doing him/her a favour. Others think that if a driver asks a parent or guardian to put a child on a seat of their own that he is trying to get his/her arm in.
My husband, like most taxi drivers, works long anti-social hours to make ends meet and, unlike the general public, he does not get paid any overtime, no time and a half, no double time, no days off, no holiday pay, no days in lieu and, dare I mention it, they can’t even charge an extra penny at Christmas time.
Like most housewives I have to make ends meet, but how many wives can say that for the last 15 years their husbands haven’t had a pay rise?
The black taxis have been operating for close to 40 years through thick and thin, never complaining. Some have lost their lives serving the general public and all we hear is disgruntled people claiming to be discriminated against.
What about the new indoor complex at Castle Junction, who do you think put up the money for the land? It was the drivers themselves, so that they could secure their jobs and provide indoor facilities for the general public.

Fact: in the past few years their insurance has more than doubled.
Fact: in the past few years their taxis have doubled in price.
Fact: in this year alone the price of fuel has risen four times and is still rising.
Fact: unlike buses the taxis are not subsidised by the government.
Fact: who do you think has footed the bill for all these increases, the general public? No, the black taxi driver and his family.

Like your reader stated, since it started the black taxis have been run the same. I agree it is time for people to wake up and smell the coffee. Nearly 40 years of service, back then Andytown was 10p, now it’s a miserly £1. Gee whizz, that caravan holiday is looking closer by the year.
On numerous occasions I have asked my husband to try the private taxi industry but for some strange reason his loyalty lies with the West Belfast Taxi Association. All I can do is echo the sentiments of all taxi driver wives. Our partners have shown commitment to the West Belfast Taxi Association, it’s time you should show your commitment to the drivers and put the fares up to at least match the cost of living. West Belfast Taxis do not have to compete with bus fares. You provide a unique multi-drop multi-pick-up service; this is why the general public uses the service. I should know, I am one of them.


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