Strike could leave city without cabs

Sophie ElliottBusselton Dunsborough Times

It is unclear whether Busselton will have a taxi service this weekend, with the Western Australia Country Taxi Operators Association calling for a regional strike in response to a $3.4 million Regional Taxi Transition Support Package announced in the State Budget.

The association has written to Premier Mark McGowan seeking his urgent review of the assistance package.

Busselton Taxis director Jeff Devenny would not comment yesterday on whether his drivers would join the strike.

However, WACTOA president Shayne Murray said the association had written to the Premier to advise him all regional operators agreed the assistance package was totally unacceptable and would cease all regional taxi services from 4pm on Friday until 4pm on Sunday. Changes to taxi regulations were part of the State Government’s 2017 response to the growth of services such as ride-share juggernaut Uber.

The assistance package entitles taxi licence holders to $10,000 a plate to help with changes under the State’s new ride sharing laws.

Mr Devenny said regional taxi providers were not happy with the assistance package.

“We should be getting exactly what they get in the metro area,” he said.

“This is just a bandaid fix, which won’t keep regional taxis alive.”

“In regional areas, operators have more infrastructure and more to lose than a single plate owner in Perth — that’s why no one is happy.”

Mr Devenny said the industry did not want to strike but felt the Government was not listening.

“The losers here are drivers who will lose their wages and the public that will not be able to get a taxi,” he said. “Strike action may not be required in some regional towns as closure may be next.

“Sadly, a number of businesses have already closed down.”

South West MLC Steve Thomas recently submitted a disallowance motion against the Government’s on-demand transport reforms.

Dr Thomas said the motion was submitted to force the Government to come to the table and talk with regional operators.

He said he would withdraw the motion if the Government would negotiate in “good faith” with regional taxi operators.

Dr Thomas said any impact to the taxi service in Busselton, brief or permanent, would be disastrous for locals and tourists.

Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said the WA Country Taxi Operators Association had been extensively consulted over the course of the reform process.

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