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  • Writer's pictureNSW Taxi Council

NSW Taxi Council advocates for Taxi Drivers to be Authorised Workers

Anil Saini hasn't driven his regular clients for weeks.

The tightened lockdown restrictions in western Sydney means the Blacktown taxi driver's clients have turned elsewhere for transport.

"Lots of them work in the health department and they don't want to use public transport," the 44-year-old said.

"They call [and] say they want to go to Westmead Hospital. But I can't take them because of this LGA (Local Government Area) restrictions."

Mr Saini is one of thousands of taxi drivers who have been effectively forced off the road under strict public health orders for large swathes of west and south-west Sydney.

Currently, only "authorised workers" such as bus drivers and couriers are allowed to leave the eight Sydney LGAs under strict lockdown.

Taxi, rideshare and hire car drivers are excluded.

According to the NSW Taxi Council, 75 per cent of Sydney's taxi drivers live in one of the eight LGAs under tougher rules brought in to curb the spread of COVID-19's Delta strain.
"Due to the high operating costs of running a taxi, just working in your own LGA isn't enough and isn't sustainable for these drivers," said NSW Taxi Council deputy chief executive Nick Abrahim.

"These drivers are stuck and what it's also meant is we've seen thousands of these vehicles now stuck as well."

Nonetheless, Mr Saini drives through the empty streets of Blacktown hoping to make some money, but after a 10-hour shift he often ends up with as little as $30.

With barely any fares, he has been dipping into his savings to cover ongoing expenses such as insurance, radio and registration fees.

"I stress out when I see the car sitting outside [my home], so at least when I go on the road it covers a little bit of the taxi cost," he said.

Shekab Khan has given up driving his taxi around Liverpool.

Mr Khan's taxi has been sitting outside his home in Prestons in Sydney's south-west for more than a month.

"I haven't made any money from the taxi in July, not even $50," the 52-year-old said.

A driver for more than 25 years, he admits the past five weeks have been the toughest of his career.

"You feel sick, stressed. You go out, you sit in your car, there's no business.

"It's not fair … the mini bus drivers are allowed to work so why are we not allowed?"

During last year's lockdown, taxi operators could access JobKeeper and a rescue package of $2,900 per taxi but the embattled industry said the disaster payments this time don't go far enough.

Australian Taxi Operations Association president George Haider urged the NSW government to allow taxi drivers to leave their LGA for work, insisting drivers can be COVID-safe.

"We sanitise the taxi every single day, we wear the mask, and we have a QR code in the taxi so we should be authorised workers to travel around," he said.

"We won't see the other side [of this lockdown] unless the Transport Minister helps out."

The taxi council's Mr Abrahim said without a similar scheme it would be "very, very difficult" for many drivers to get back on the road.

"These drivers and operators have ends to meet, they've got bills to pay and food to put on the table," he said.

In a statement, a Transport for NSW spokesperson said it would continue to support the industry and the "safety of drivers, passengers and the community is of the utmost importance".

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