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WORLDWIDE from Ireland


TAXI DRIVERS PROTEST OUTSIDE IRISH PARLIAMENT


Irish taxi drivers protested outside the Dáil on 8 October to make a stand about the dire state of their industry. Some taxi drivers are spending up to five hours waiting for dif- ferent jobs due to a decrease in demand as a result of Covid-19. Black balloons were released by drivers to signify the death of the taxi industry. Thousands of people had been expected to protest in Dublin city centre on 9 October calling for more support however, it had to be postponed due to Covid-19 restrictions. President of the Irish Taxi Drivers Federation, Joe Heron, stated that it’s very bleak at the moment for the industry. He said: "There were [about] 26,000 drivers in the country and we know, that for the time being at least, there's not going to be work for a tenth of them."


TAXI REPS SHOCKED AS 43 NEW LICENCES ISSUED DURING PANDEMIC


Irish taxi reps have told of their shock after 43 new licences were issued in the single month of June, despite the industry being on its knees. The Irish Sun reports that struggling long-term cabbies are pleading with the Government for financial support amid the Covid- 19 crisis. They say the volume of fares is down 80 per cent since the pandemic struck. But as they push for a financial package from the State to help drivers get back to work, taxi reps have been left reel- ing as the authorities issue a wave of new licences. Jim Waldron, spokesman for the Irish National Private Hire Taxi Association, told how 43 fresh ‘plates’ were dished out in June alone and he called on the Government to stop issuing taxi licences until the pandemic ends. Jim told the Sun: “Why people would want to come into our busi- ness now, I don’t know. They shouldn’t be allowed to come in at this moment in time. We have asked the Government basically to stop the issue of any licences except for electric vehicles until things get back to normal.” Ireland is facing an unemployment crisis as Covid cripples the econ- omy and Waldron revealed how some of those laid off believe turning to the taxi industry could offer some hope. Waldron added: “I’m surprised because it is a bad investment as far as I’m concerned, and they’ll realise that very quickly at the moment. But a lot of people are being made redundant from other jobs and can’t get work somewhere else. “And they’re like us, they want to work. So they think ‘I’ll get a taxi, I’ll be able to make money driving a taxi’. There is this myth out there that driving a taxi is a golden tree, they think that the streets are paved with gold with a taxi. But it’s far from it. It is a hard living.”


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Taxi groups are also pushing the Government to set up a ‘buy-back’ scheme so taxi drivers who want to get out of the business can sell their licences back to the State. Waldron said: “The 43 people who came into the business could have got existing licences instead of being issued with new ones which increased the number of taxis on the road.” Waldron said: “We need help from the Government and we need it now. We have been overlooked.”


from China


CHINESE CITY ORDERS TAXI DRIVERS TO REMOVE TATTOOS


Taxi drivers in a north western Chinese city have been told to get rid of their tattoos. The order came in August as officials in Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province, rolled out a cam- paign to improve the image of local cab drivers. Drivers not having tattoos was supposed to keep some passengers from feeling uncomfortable. The strategy also coincided with a nationwide drive to dampen the growing popularity of tattoos among younger generations, who are increasingly embracing the once-stigmatised body art. But one driver in Lanzhou took to an online government forum to rebut the order. He said: “When applying for our driver permit, we submit documents showing that we have no criminal record. Our tattoos don’t turn us into bad guys and criminals.” The driver stated that removing tattoos was painful and expensive and the process can also leave scars and faded patches of colour. The government’s order was simply discriminatory, the driver said. But Lanzhou’s transport committee did not budge and without offering evidence, it said that: “Large tattoos on drivers may cause distress to passengers who are women and children”. The committee also insisted that “drivers who already have tattoos should remove them through surgical procedures to the greatest extent possible”. It is unclear how the tattoo removal would be enforced or who would pay for it and the Lanzhou government declined to comment on those points. The committee’s response to the driver was widely reported across China, reviving an age-old debate in a country where tattoos are being increasingly embraced by younger Chinese but are still shunned by those who consider them a mark of criminality. Changchun, a Chinese city in the north eastern province of Jilin, recently issued its own ban on tattoos for cabbies — but merely told them to cover them up, not to remove them. The Lanzhou driver said that Changchun’s approach was preferable and suggested that the local government modify its directive. After the pushback, Lanzhou’s transportation committee said that drivers could hide large tattoos on their arms and necks but sug- gested that it would only be a temporary solution.


NOVEMBER 2020


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