NEWS

Cabbies ‘exploited,’ unionist says

As taxi drivers press authorities for the right to double their fares, figures show that the majority of cabbies – most of whom rent out their vehicles – do not have any social insurance. Meanwhile, allegations abound that drivers are being exploited by the vehicle owners. According to figures released by the Athens Labor Center, 87 percent of cab drivers are not insured and 15 percent do not have driving licenses. These statistics are disputed by cab owners who add that most drivers prefer not to be insured. «Essentially, the sector is like a jungle,» said Alekos Karvounis, a spokesman for Attica’s association of taxi drivers. Karvounis said the owners of the taxis serving the streets of Athens are exploiting drivers who rent them. According to him, the drivers are forced to work 12-hour shifts rather than more manageable eight-hour shifts. To this charge, cab owners respond that drivers want to work more hours in order to boost their incomes. As for insurance, drivers claim to be under the thumb of the cab owners. «Even when drivers appeared to be insured on paper, they are not – they have paid their contributions to the vehicle owners,» Karvounis said. Cab owners take issue with this objection too, noting that most drivers prefer not to appear to be insured as their work as cabbies is usually a secondary occupation. In the event that the owner of the vehicle and the driver are related, the latter is not obliged to take out insurance, a spokesman for the association of taxi owners pointed out. «If a driver has his wife or child driving the taxi, he does not need additional insurance and this is entirely legal,» the spokesman said. Karvounis also drew attention to dozens of illegal taxi rental offices operating in Attica, noting that these aggravate the problem. These offices allegedly rent out individual cabs from their owners for 1,250 euros a month and then sublet them for double this amount to would-be drivers. According to Karvounis, there are some 30 such offices offering around 100 vehicles apiece for rent.