Much respect. Best wishes to the poor bastard who got stabbed. And three cheers for Jazz Randyman — you rock!
Melbourne taxi drivers consider further protests
May 2, 2008
TAXI drivers have warned Wednesday’s snap city blockade could happen again.
Blockade organiser Mohammed Jama said cab drivers had been neglected for too long and were prepared to further disrupt the city to get what they wanted.
“From now on, if we are not getting what we want we will fight for our right anytime, any place, anywhere,” he said.
About 1000 cabbies blocked the intersection of Flinders and Swanston streets for 22 hours calling for increased safety in taxis.
The April 29 stabbing of Reservoir taxi driver Jalvinder Singh, 23, in Clifton Hill sparked the protest.
A 45-year-old Alphington man faces an attempted murder charge.
The 22-hour protest ended when the State Government gave in to the cabbies’ demands.
Under the agreement, all Melbourne taxis will be fitted with security screens by Christmas and the government will foot half the bill. Also, passengers will be required to pre-pay fares between 10pm and 5am.
The government also agreed to compensate the injured taxi driver and launch a media campaign to promote the pre-pay system.
It will also educate drivers on dealing with violent offenders.
Victorian Taxi Directorate general manager Peter Corcoran said the actions were offered in good faith by Transport Minister Lynne Kosky.
“The community and this government cannot condone any violence against taxi drivers,” he said at the protest.
Victoria Police negotiator Inspector Paul Pottage said he was satisfied with the peaceful protest.
He said fines issued against drivers who parked cabs illegally during the blockade would be waived.
“This was a concession we made at the meeting (with Ms Kosky),” he said.
Sony Kumer, 34, left India 13 years ago to live in Melbourne. The father of three from Hoppers Crossing was a cab driver for two years but recently gave it up after he was set upon by passengers.
He said security screens would go a long way to protecting drivers.
“I had a lot of problems. I was assaulted by three men, I stopped the cab and ran,” he said.
“I am looking for a job now but one thing is for sure, I don’t want to drive cabs.”
Satvirl Khangur, 24, from Reservoir, is a rookie cab driver of two months. He had mixed feelings about the changes.
“It’s alright, pre-pay is good and security screens, I’m not sure how much safer it will be,” he said.
Mr Khangur said he was glad he joined the protest – despite sleeping on the street in freezing temperatures and not eating for 22 hours.
“I’m with my friends, all my brothers, we all united to take on the government,” he told the Leader.
Opposition transport spokesman Terry Mulder and Lord Mayor John So went to the blockade on Wednesday to urge the drivers to move on.
The Lord Mayor offered to convene a meeting at his office but drivers declined.
“I’m asking them (the drivers) to get off the street,” the Lord Mayor said before leaving on foot unescorted.
The cabbies had the support of a large cross-section of the community, with Salvation Army officers handing out cups of water to the protesters.
Cadet Peter Hobbs said it was unusual for the Salvos to attend a protest but they helped “everyone in need”.
“These guys have been here a while so we are giving them some water,” he said.
East Brunswick man Mickie Skelton, 20, brought a red basket of apples and handed them out to the applause of the drivers who vowed to “never charge him” for a cab journey.
“I’m an anarchist and a unionist and I believe in solidarity,” Mr Skelton said.
“These guys are here to say that we do not just work in your 7 Elevens, your petrol stations and drive your cabs around. We keep this city going.
“This is a class issue.”
City workers interviewed by Leader were mostly in support of the drivers.
James Henderson, 26, from Port Melbourne said: “Not enough is being done about the escalating violence.”
David Matthews, 22, of Port Melbourne said it should never have come to drivers needing to blockade.
“18 months ago a taxi driver was killed and the government said safety standards would be reviewed and here we are again. There is a need to take action,” he said.
The protest was largely peaceful until police started to fine the cabs.
Nishan Singh, 29, from Glenroy copped a $110 fine but refused to move his car.
Ms Kosky will meet with taxi drivers at noon on May 15 at Flemington Racecourse to disclose further details of the introduction of the security screens.