STAFF REPORTER

PALMA
THE future looks grim for around a third of Palma's taxi drivers who because of a significant fall in client numbers and increasing costs of maintaining their business, are struggling against rising debt, Taxi Association President Gabriel Moragues said yesterday.

If income fell by 50 percent in 2009, continued Moragues, it will have gone down another 40 percent for many drivers by the end of this year. Their takings, he claimed, aren't any higher than 900 euros a month. “Some are saddled with debts from mortgages and the cost of their taxi driving license which two years ago went up from 180'000 to 270'000 euros,” explained Moragues, whose association embraces about 68 percent of all licensed taxi drivers in Palma. “Looking at the number of drivers in relation to the average number of customers, there are about 400 drivers too many in the city,” furthered Moragues. The Association President wants to see a stop to unfair competition in the form of already-licensed drivers who contract other drivers in return for a fixed wage or a percentage of takings.

Even though there were higher takings in the summer months, said Moragues, they had to be shared out amongst a greater number of drivers. “Now it looks as though it's going to be a very poor winter for many,” he forecast. The City Council is apparently establishing a rota system in which 680 drivers will take part. It means that the “bad times” are going to be shared out amongst all of us, said Moragues. “Imagine what it would be like if we were all out on the street at the same time,” he asked.

The Association would in fact like to see more regulation in the industry. Stopping more drivers getting licenses is the first step, said Moragues who went on to complain that there are already-licensed drivers who are speculating. “They buy the licence, they hire it out and take work as something else,” he claimed.

Moragues said that there are some people who have entered the profession of taxi driving as an alternative to being employed. “Some just didn't know what they were getting in to and have given in the keys,”he said. The costs of being a driver mount to 50 euros a day, he said, including self-employment contributions, fuel, insurance, tax and maintenance. “We can't let the costs of a licence drop any further,” said Moragues “because for retired drivers, this is their insurance. Drivers are currently pensioned off at 700 euros per month.

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