News State Western Australia News Taxi drivers in despair over Uber cling to last hope of compensation

Taxi drivers in despair over Uber cling to last hope of compensation

uber taxi australia
The taxi industry are at war with Uber across Australia. Photo: Getty Photo: Getty
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Crushed by the feeling she has been betrayed by the Government and abandoned by the public, 57-year-old Perth taxi owner and driver Deb Papamichael fears she is just weeks away from losing her home.

The rise of Uber has left her struggling to make $100 a night and unable to meet the repayments on the $320,000 loan she took out in 2011 to buy her taxi plate.

“Last night I left here at 3:30pm. I got home at midnight. I did four jobs and I did $97,” said the grandmother — who shares her home with her daughter, son-in-law and grandson.

“I can’t survive on it. I just can’t.

“The bank want to foreclose on the loan which will put us all homeless. They’ll take the house.”

Ms Papamichael is one of hundreds of WA taxi plate owners desperately awaiting the outcome of the McGowan Government’s taxi industry review.

The industry wants compensation in the form of a buyback scheme where taxi plate owners would be paid up to $295,000.

Labor MP Tony Buti is conducting the review, but so far there is no sign of when it will be completed or what it will deliver.

Ms Papamichael fears the decision will come too late for her.

“Unless the Government comes up with some kind of compensation plan, I’m stuffed,” she said.

“I need that now. I don’t need it by the time they decide in two years time because by then I’ll be sleeping on a park bench.”

Superannuation plans in tatters

Pat Hart has been driving cabs for 40 years and is also facing hard financial times.

She said she had planned to retire this year at 69 and sell her cab to fund her retirement, but with the value of the plate diving, the rise of Uber had all-but destroyed her superannuation.

“Before the Uber came in, the plates were around the $300,000 mark. They’re currently, the official price from the department is $85,000,” she said.

Like Ms Papamichael, she has seen her income dive as customers disappear into Uber vehicles.

“It plummeted. Sometimes even now I only just cover costs. I’m not drawing a wage from my business, I’m just covering costs,” she said.

She too is hoping a government buyback scheme may help her salvage her investment in the taxi plate.

‘I feel betrayed’

Both drivers blame the Barnett government for failing to halt Uber by properly enforcing the state laws that controlled the taxi industry.

“They made the laws. I bought that plate with laws in place. And they’ve said, ‘oh well, don’t worry about it now,” Ms Papamichael said.

Ms Hart agrees and believes the industry has been destroyed.

“It’s not a disruption, it’s a destruction. Destruction of the taxi industry,” Ms Hart said.

“Just from a personal level, I feel really betrayed. They ask you to give your heart and soul and everything to the industry and then you just get cast aside.”

Transport Minister Rita Saffioti said the new Labor Government was working on a buyback scheme but the issue was “complicated”.

“I’m hoping to have another announcement in upcoming months.”