“TWU to blame for Uber”, NSW Taxi Council claims

Having witnessed the lacklustre, incompetent attempts by our state governments to enforce their own passenger transport regulations, i.e. their failure to secure criminal convictions against UberX drivers and failure to enforce demands for Uber Australia to “cease and desist” from dispatching UberX cars, one could have reasonably expected that the so called ‘peak bodies’ of the taxi industry, such as the NSW Taxi Council would have taken matters into their own hands by filing a civil action against Uber, seeking an injunction to stop it from breaking a raft of federal and state laws. Well, they didn’t, not even when they were offered an opportunity to piggyback Russell Howarth’s case against the company in the Supreme Court. In a letter to OZ Cabbie the NSW Taxi Council blames the Transport Workers Union for its failure to act.

by Peer Lindholdt

In respect to the article titled “Howarth’s case against Uber in jeopardy” [OZ Cabbie Nov 2015], we wish to advise that there is much in this article that we don’t agree with”. Thus began a ‘Letter to the Editor’ by NSW Taxi Council CEO, Roy Wakelin-King. It was dated 16 December, the day before the NSW Government announced the legalisation of ‘ridesharing’, but sent by snail mail, I didn’t receive it until the 22nd, too late for our December issue. However, it is still as absurdly relevant today as it was then.

What a surprise - OZ Cabbie publishes stuff the NSW Taxi Council doesn’t agree with. OZ Cabbie publishes lots of stuff that lots of people don’t agree with. Unavoidable when exposing the hyperbole that flows like sewage from the industry mafia, its collaborators amongst the rank and file, and government spin-doctors.

In his response to the article Wakelin-King denies having influenced the decision by TODA (NSW Taxi Operators and Drivers Association) to withdraw its original support for Taxi Driver Action, the united group formed specifically to raise money for Howarth’s legal costs in his fight to have Uber declared illegal by the Supreme Court and thus obtaining an injunction to stop it from operating UberX. The case is ongoing.

TODA insiders have told me otherwise. In fact, it has been evident that Wakelin-King has had considerable influence over the association’s president Anne Turner going back to well before the arrival of Uber three years ago. For example, she was a loud backer of the mafia’s smear campaign against taxi apps ingogo and goCatch when they launched in 2011.

“Anne doesn’t fart without asking for Roy’s advice and direction first”, one former insider told OZ Cabbie.

However, the most astonishingly absurd statement made by Wakelin-King is his claim that the drawn-out fight in the IRC (NSW Industrial Relations Commission) against better terms and conditions for taxi drivers (bailees) demanded by the Transport Workers Union, has drained the coffers of the Taxi Council.

“... the action by the TWU and those who support the union’s application that is before the IRC has had a direct impact on the ability of the NSW Taxi Council to commit further resources to the fight against illegal ridesharing and specifically UberX. The opportunity cost in this regard has been material and has negatively impacted on NSW taxi drivers, operators and owners”, he wrote.

Evidently it was more important to the Taxi Council to fight against taxi drivers’ rights to superannuation, a minimum wage and standard award entitlements, than to protect the industry against a foreign corporate terrorist like Uber.

For the Taxi Council to claim it is short of funds is hogwash. Its plate-owner arm, the NSW Taxi Industry Association, collects an estimated $3.9 million annually in mandatory membership fees paid by operators as part of their network fees. Not that operators can be members of the association. They are paying for their plate owners’ membership. A highly questionable arrangement!

The ‘membership fee’ used to be itemised on the operator’s monthly invoice from his network, however, after OZ Cabbie exposed the sham arrangement in 2001, most networks rolled the membership fee into the marketing fee to hide it. A stroke of Kermode genius.

But there is more folks! In the middle of last year the Taxi Council solicited funds from plate owners for the specific purpose of fighting Uber. The request was for $200 per plate + GST. Apparently nobody questioned why they had to pay GST on a donation to a fighting fund. But that aside; assuming every owner paid up, the Taxi Council would have collected more than $700,000. What did it spend it on? Another futile advertising campaign? useless lobbyists? … or did it go to pay for the Taxi Council’s share in the new iconsortium “ihail Pty Ltd”? We may never know, because just like Uber, it is not an organisation keen on transparency. Like Uber the taxi industry mafia’s (cartel) books are not open to scrutiny. What we do know however is that the money certainly wasn’t spent on legal action against Uber or the government. •

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OZ Cabbie February 2017

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