Hundreds of Christchurch taxi drivers plan strike over Uber-friendly law changes

Uber has come under fire around the world for flouting taxi laws around P endorsements – a vetting process that checks ...
TOBY MELVILLE

Uber has come under fire around the world for flouting taxi laws around P endorsements – a vetting process that checks things like criminal and medical records.

Hundreds of Christchurch taxi drivers will go on strike next week protesting law changes they say favour rideshare companies like Uber.

The 12-hour strike will start at 6am on Monday. Striking drivers would congregate at Burnside Park at 8.30am.

Jaspinder Singh, a taxi driver who helped organise the protest, said he didn't know how many drivers would walk off the job, but hoped it would be about half of all those in the city. Christchurch has 700-800 taxi drivers, he said. 

Uber launched in Christchurch in 2016.
SUPPLIED

Uber launched in Christchurch in 2016.

The strike is in protest at amendments to the Land Transport Act, passed into law this week. They include axing compulsory in-vehicle cameras and driver panic alarms, signage requirements [including fare information] and the need to belong to an approved taxi organisation.

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They also eased rules around P endorsements, which Uber has campaigned for.

Taxi driver Jaspinder Singh, who organised the strike, pictured at an earlier Uber-related protest in 2016.
DAVID WALKER/STUFF

Taxi driver Jaspinder Singh, who organised the strike, pictured at an earlier Uber-related protest in 2016.

"These kind of things should be reviewed by the Government," Singh said. 

"That's why we decided it's not a level playing field. It's only for the Uber. A level playing field should be Uber [having] to have signage, [having] to have a Braille sign, [having] to have cameras in the car.

"If you see a taxi with a top sign, a door sign, [you know] this is a taxi. But with Uber, how do you know this?"

In-vehicle cameras were a crucial safety tool, Singh said. He cited a recent assault on a Wellington taxi driver, where the camera captured an image of the attacker.

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"If the camera was not in the car, anything could have happened."

The New Zealand Taxi Federation has long opposed the law changes, saying they were written to suit the rideshare business model.

"We've argued continuously and quite vigorously but the Government had made up its mind," executive director John Hart said.

Under the new law, small passenger service vehicles operating within the 18 main urban areas needed an in-vehicle recording camera as a means of identifying driver and passenger, unless they had an exemption.

Hart said the Uber model of driver and passenger registration and passenger credit card information would qualify as such.

"We say that's nonsense, but they've done it anyway."

Hart was unaware of the Christchurch strike plans, but noted their futility, coming days after the changes became law.

Singh said: "I know it's hard, but we're just trying to [effect change] if we can."

Uber New Zealand general manager Richard Menzies said the company welcomed the "sensible, safety-based" reforms.

"This is a positive step to modernise New Zealand's transport laws, which recognises the important role new and innovative services can play in moving our cities.

"We now look forward to working with the [NZ Transport Agency] on the implementation of these reforms."

 - Stuff

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