Taxi industry racism report criticised as biased and divisive
By Martina Nee
A new report researched and compiled by the Irish Centre for Human Rights, has been slammed as being poorly presented, biased, and likely to cause a deeper “wedge” between Irish drivers and multi-cultural drivers.
Ahead of the official launch tomorrow of the Riding Along With Racism? report the Galway Taxi Association (GTA), which represents a number of taxi companies and firms in the city, has said that it “vehemently refutes” the findings and claims made by Dr Vinodh Jaichand, director of the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUI Galway, in the report.
The report, which aims to verify and document the allegations of racism and “hearsay” that a policy of not employing Africans exists in the Galway taxi industry, is due to be officially launched at 6pm tomorrow at the Irish Centre for Human Rights. However, the report has already attracted much controversy and criticism from a number of representatives in the Galway taxi industry. A spokeperson for GTA said that the report is a “one-sided and tunnel vision synopsis” of taxi drivers who are not Africans.
According to the report the methodology used included surveys with a set of questions for Galway city initiatives, observations of two taxi ranks, questionnaires to white taxi drivers (41), questionnaires to African taxi drivers (34), questionnaires to the general public (297), and questionnaires for taxi management (six). However the GTA has said that “at no stage” was it contacted to participate in the research. The report further goes on to state that a number of failed attempts were made to contact a representative for Galway Taxis. However, Gerry Corbett, of Galway Taxis, has responded recently by saying the company “knew absolutely nothing about any research until hearing Dr Jaichand on Galway Bay FM” on December 1.
The report claims “there is evidence of a campaign against African taxi drivers, thinly disguised as the inherent qualifications of being a taxi driver and as an appeal to customers to ‘support Irish’ in this time of economic recession.” Interviews were said to have been conducted with Failte Taxis, Big O Taxi, Cara Cabs, Claddagh Hackney Company, and Local Taxis. In response to questions posed by researchers, all taxi companies interviewed said they did operate a recruitment policy, but when asked if they operated a policy on the hiring of non-Irish drivers all answered ‘no’, except one which was formed for non-Irish drivers to work together. On the selection criteria four companies said that their previous relevant experience would be the first criterion followed by knowlege of routes. In response to accusations that some taxi companies are operating a “private club” GTA secretary Darren Parslow explains that two companies, Big O Taxis and Galway Taxis, are “actually cooperatives”. Indeed, when questioned by researchers Big O did state it does not employ drivers but that everyone is a shareholder who buys into the company and is self-employed.
From July 1 to July 26 researchers were posted at two taxi ranks. Observations were made of 116 ‘African’ drivers and 95 ‘white’ drivers, during the day and night for a total of nine hours and eight minutes. Interestingly it acknowleged that “the Taxi Regulator has stated that the ‘cab rank rule’ does not have to be observed because the customer makes the choice”. However, researchers then reported and criticised some customers for not taking the first car in the queue. The report concludes that some customers change their minds when they see African drivers and that “a practice appears to have emerged of white drivers leaving their interior light on at night”.
Regarding the “cab rank rule” GTA’s Mr Parslow said that “a customer’s freedom of choice should not be confused with racial tendencies”. Mr Parslow also describes as “preposterous” the notion that some drivers leave the interior light on in their cars at night for identification of skin colour. “This would indicate that taxi drivers are not to read papers/books/crosswords under their dim interior lights for fear of causing a racial issue,” he said.
Reseachers for the centre conducted interviews with 41 white drivers of whom only three per cent said that the presence of African drivers had affected them. Of those interviewed 47 per cent revealed that they were offered the position of shareholder in a taxi company. All interviewees said their work was affected by the economic downturn and 86 per cent said there was less work as the number of taxis is higher than demand. Researchers interviewed 34 African drivers with 41 per cent saying that they had applied for a job with a taxi company in Galway and of these, 50 per cent said that they did not get the job, 36 per cent were offered a job by one company, but were later “dismissed for being African” by the new owner, seven per cent were offered a job and asked to pay €100 but decided it was not worth it and left, and seven per cent were misled about the job after the interview. When the drivers were asked whether they had experienced discrimination while seeking employment in the Galway taxi industry 62 per cent answered ‘yes’, 35 per cent said ‘no’, and three per cent preferred not to answer.