Taxi drivers see incomes plunge

Athens taxi drivers say their income has plummeted by up to 40 percent since last year with most attributing the downturn to the impact of austerity measures on city dwellers’ wallets. «Business is going downhill,» Constantinos Dimos, one of some 15,000 taxi drivers in the capital, told Kathimerini. He said he and fellow cabbies are «out on the streets driving around like crazy looking for customers.» Even the increasingly frequent strikes by transport workers have failed to benefit cabbies, Dimos said. «On strike days, it is such chaos on the roads that all our journeys take longer so we earn less,» he said. Dimos said cuts to salaries and benefits were chiefly to blame for the slump and saw little chance of an upturn in the near future. «How can we hope for an improvement when people don’t have money?» he remarked. Taxi drivers say their income has also been dented by increases to value-added tax and fuel taxes introduced recently by the government. Some cabbies expect their losses to reach 5,000 euros this year. Radio taxis have been particularly hard hit, sector representatives say, as their service is more expensive than that offered by regular cabbies. Dimos said he believed his sector’s fortunes were inextricably linked to the country’s ability to weather the debt crisis. «Our survival depends on the the survival of society in general,» he said. Athens residents say they are not using taxis as often as before. «I used to commute by taxi between my job in Ambelokipi and my home in Moschato,» Anna Drakoulaki said. «It’s too expensive now.» Taxi drivers increased their fares last November, the second in a series of three planned incremental hikes. The third increase, due last month, was abolished.