“Frustrated” public rank taxi drivers are protesting in St Helier today, following the Minister for Infrastructure’s refusal to budge over controversial fare reforms.
Minister Eddie Noel moved to “simplify” tariffs and absorb all ‘extras’ into a fee of just 20p in May, sparking industrial action and calls for a “mediation” between the disgruntled drivers and Department for Infrastructure (DfI), which has responsibility for the industry.
But the new fare system was nonetheless introduced last month, prompting an announcement from the Jersey Taxi Drivers Association (JTDA) that a protest would be going ahead in St Helier today from 09:00.
Mick Tostevin, president of the JTDA, explained: "This is not something we like to do but we are being pushed into a corner by a minister who won't mediate. The taxi-cab review has been going on for several years but it is now being overshadowed by the fare increase. We are not against everything in the review, although some parts are discriminatory, we understand there needs to be a change. But the Minister is using a hammer to crack a nut here.
"The Minister doesn't listen to us or our concerns. He doesn't listen when we say we are actually losing out with the new fares. The waiting time that used to be priced £21.18 per hour is now £14.82, which is 30% less."
Pictured: Taxis are protesting in town today with signs in their windows.
Another driver commented: "We need a two-tier system in Jersey simply because the Minister can't control the private hire companies."
As a result, dozens of drivers, who are “frustrated and angry at the continuing stubborn and unreasonable stance being adopted by the Minister" according to a JTDA statement, are driving around town this morning.
They will circulate the ranks at the Weighbridge and Library Place in the hope that their presence will alert States members who are sitting today for their last Assembly before the summer break. Mick Tostevin assured islanders, however, that they are still "providing a service" with drivers covering the ranks at the Airport.
Pictured: The Weighbridge taxi rank and others around the Island were left empty in May amid strikes over fare and work condition reforms - but the JTDA say they will continue to operate as normal during protests today.
If the fresh protests fail to prompt a fare reform u-turn, the final say will be left with the States in September, following a proposition lodged last week by Senator Sarah Ferguson. If successful, the charges could be annulled and the Minister forced to enter into dialogue with the JTDA under the supervision of a mediator. MIck Tostevin hoped however that the proposition itself would have prompted the minister to "...stop and listen to reason" before the next debate.
However, Deputy Eddie Noel said that there was no way to reverse the process of rolling out the charges. He commented:
"This is now set in law and the changes are in process of being rolled out. Now, even if he wished it, the Minister could not stop the changes without annulling the legislation ahead of the States debate, in accordance with the Proposition he opposes."
Nonetheless, he has offered the JTDA a "review point" in six months to discuss the charge's impact and any potential changes that can be made.
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