10b. Driver Harassment/Assaults/Robbery and Fare Evasions by Members of the Public (The Safety Issue)
The issue of driver safety has been continually highlighted in the media and through independently commissioned reports over the last decade. Despite numerous statements by successive governments and departmental heads (in correspondence) the problem still exists. The recent flagfall rise was ostensibly introduced to fund a so-called "safety reform package". This has only partially addressed the problem. The role of the "Taxi Council" was exposed yet again as recently as July 19th 1998 in an article in the Sunday Telegraph where it was revealed the "Taxi Council" would be giving drivers "abuse tapes" so they can get used to being abused by passengers. They obviously don't feel the owners have any responsibility to reduce or eliminate the level of abuse of drivers.[NPA4].
Because of the structure of the taxi industry every aspect of the so-called "safety reform package" was seen as another potential area of revenue scam by vested interest groups. This extended to the failure to install proper safety screens, the satellite tracking system, the failure to install video surveillance cameras to deter assaults on drivers, the training of radio operators and drivers, the conducting of effective public education campaigns, inspection and maintenance of vehicles, etc.
Drivers have long been concerned about fare evasion which affects their income directly. But because of the fixed pay-in system the owner is still guaranteed their nightly income and hence have no real financial incentive to be concerned about the safety of their drivers. (e.g. compulsory central locking of doors controlled by the driver). The Liberal Party under the Baird Ministry passed retrograde legislation that removed fare evasion from the Criminal Code and reduced it to a minor misdemeanour where the maximum fine is less than some of the fares that are evaded. The current government hasmerely increased the fine by a nominal amount. It is still not a disincentive to those who wish to evade paying their fare. No government has conducted any public education campaign to warn the public of the seriousness of fare evasion unlike the constant campaigns over revenue (fare evasion) in the bus and train sectors of public transport. It should be noted that many driver assaults result from attempts from fare evasion situations.
I have corresponded with authorities over this issue pointing out howthe legal onus is normally on the employer to supply a safe working environment and to foot the bill accordingly as a cost of production.[D1-4] However, the TIA has shifted the financial responsibility on to the non-owner driver in this matter contrary to the spirit and intent of the Occupational Health & Safety legislation. When this matter was brought to the attention of Workcover they stated "Workcover takes the issue of taxi driver safety very seriously and will consider prosecuting any employer who fails to adequately comply with WorkCover legislation." [D3]
Source: Sydney Taxi Corruption