4 Jul 2016

Chch taxi drivers claim massive income drop

6:02 pm on 4 July 2016

Cab drivers in Christchurch say their incomes have plummeted 30 to 50 percent since the arrival of the alternative taxi service, Uber.

About 100 of them gathered in the city today to protest against the company's presence in the city and to ask the government to put a stop to it.

Taxi drivers upset at what they say is lack of action on Uber protest in Christchurch.

Taxi drivers upset at what they say is lack of action on Uber protest in Christchurch. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

The protest was originally going to block one lane of the street outside the office of National MP Nicky Wagner but it was moved at the last minute to a nearby carpark where cab drivers shared a barbecue lunch.

Organiser Jaspinder Pal Singh said taxi drivers made as little as $200 some weeks and were struggling to survive thanks to being under-cut by Uber.

"Since they [Uber] started in March, probably 50 percent of our business has gone and a lot of people they are surviving hard, they have families, they have kids."

Uber had created a completely uneven playing field, he said.

He relied solely on cab driving for his income, whereas the thousands of people who had signed up as Uber drivers, mostly did it in their spare time.

"The people [Uber drivers], they start in the morning at five o'clock until eight o'clock, nine o'clock they go to the office, finish five o'clock at the office, then start Uber back again, six o'clock until nine o'clock."

The amount of bureaucracy is huge compared to what the average Uber driver goes through, said driver for Blue Star Taxis, Wayne Branks.

"We have a whole lot of compliance costs, like ACC, GST, P endorsements, photo id, as well as get a fit and proper person assessment, traffic history, criminal, mental and all of that.

We have to go through that every year. Uber do not have to do that. They pay $20 to some guy and they just seem to get passed."

Mr Branks' earnings are down 30 percent on where they were before Uber arrived.

"At the end of the day it's just a race to the bottom. It's also driving costs out of the business but the business still has to be sustainable, you still have to make a living.

Otherwise you'll wake up to Uber lawyer, Uber plumber, Uber electrician and Uber teacher."

All of those spoken to want the government to force Uber to play by the same rules as they have to.

Nobody from the Transport Agency was available to be interviewed but it released figures showing in the past two months it had issued 52 official warnings to Uber drivers without passenger licences, ordered seven off the road and sent letters to seventeen hundred of them.

Mr Singh said as well as taking action against individual Uber drivers, the government needed to prosecute the company itself.

Uber declined to front up for an interview but released a statement saying Christchurch had become its fastest growing city in the world with thousands of applications from those wanting to drive for them.

It said Cantabrians had embraced the flexible work opportunities it was offering.

Taxi drivers protested in Christchurch at what they say is a lack of action by authorities on the online ride-hailing service Uber.

Driver Jaspinder Pal Singh was one of the taxi drivers protesting against Uber. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young