Cabbies rule out strike but may appeal judgment
Irish Independent - 25 March 2001 - Martina Devlin
TAXI drivers' leaders last night ruled out strike action in the wake of the High Court decision to uphold deregulation - but indicated a Supreme Court appeal was likely.
"We're disappointed. Every taxi driver in Ireland would be disappointed with this result," said Irish Taxi Drivers' Federation president John Ussher.
"Money for court action is always a problem but you have to ask yourself can you afford not to appeal to the Supreme Court?"
The federation is meeting on Monday with its partner the National Taxi Drivers' Union together they account for 3,500 members to discuss an appeal.
The union's vice-president Vinny Kearns said: "The phone has been hopping with members urging us to go to the Supreme Court. But we don't want strike action, we don't want to go onto the streets.
"We brought this to the court. We think the court is the right place to deal with it and we hope to resolve it there."
Both union representatives warned of hardship ahead for taxi drivers. Mr Kearns said many had
re-mortgaged their homes to buy plates and the loss of earnings as a result of more cars on the road meant they were in dire financial straits.
"The court's decision on no compensation means there will be many repossession orders on homes," predicted Mr Kearns.
"I have dealt with one repossession order already in the past two weeks in Dublin and managed to get a stay on it in the hopes of a solution. A man with a young family who bought a wheelchair accessible taxi found he wasn't able to make ends meet - since deregulation he hasn't got the same level of income."
Vinny Kearns predicted deregulation would lead to a deterioration in the service. He said 85pc of taxis were two-driver operations before deregulation in late November - which meant a virtually round-the-clock service for customers. Most taxis were now single driver operations and they weren't necessarily choosing to work late nights.
"Some of them are taking other jobs as lorry drivers or coach drivers and supplementing their income by taking the taxis onto the streets at weekends," he said.
"The industry is turning into a part-time industry which is a great worry to us. The weekend service may be better but there's been a falling off in the weekday morning and evening peak time service because the drivers are in their other full-time jobs."
Mr Ussher said the judge may have seen queues at taxi ranks but he didn't see the distress of widows reliant on taxi plates for their income or elderly drivers obliged to abandon retirement to make ends meet.
"There are terrible cases of hardship out there," he warned. "I have people coming into my office in tears. You would want to have a heart of stone not to be moved by their stories."
"Everybody in the taxi business saw the plate as their pension. They could rent it out for an income or sell it for a lump sum. Now that's gone." And on Mr Justice Paul Carney's decision to put a 21-day stay on the unions' half-share of costs, he said: "I have never heard of a judge awarding costs in such a fashion."