TAXI driver Hugh Williams has been penalised for refusing to carry passengers in the front seat of his cab despite his taxi company's policy, and measures put in place, encouraging people to ride in the rear.
13CABS have implemented a national policy in conjunction with its 'Ride with Care' campaign with five main points, the fourth of which says "Sit in the back seat".
But when Mr Williams requested a passenger to do just that, he was reported to management and subsequently stripped of his endorsement which allows him to carry passengers known as "account holders", which he says make up 50 per cent of his earnings. He hasn't worked since.
"I have a daughter and a grand-daughter who both work in ICU and I am not going to burst their bubble .. and I know from them how critical things could become very quickly," Mr Williams said.
"We haven't let people sit in the front since about halfway through last year. Most of my work is people who are account customers, that means they are parcel deliveries, people going to get their car serviced or they're going to a shopping centre.
"We've got stickers on all the doors facing the street, it's got "please sit in the back'. They might want to take the risk, I'm not going to take the risk. I am a senior citizen, I am 74, and I'm not going to be the one that starts another cluster."
Mr Williams said he has asked the company to provide to him in writing what it is he has done wrong, and that so far he has had nothing back.
The Point to Point Transport Commissioner's office has advised that, during COVID-19 lockdown periods, taxis and hire vehicles should use a QR code system, seat passengers in the back, use contactless payment methods, desist from driving if they are unwell, and ensure passengers handle their own luggage.
A spokesman for 13Cabs said that the company's policy was that if drivers were not willing to allow account holders to ride up front, they could not be endorsed to carry account holders. Some of the account work involved people with injuries or coming from rehab, the spokesman said.
"So to solve the problem is to remove the account work from his bookings, so he will still get all of his regular bookings, but for those people who need to sit in the front seat, then we have to be able to facilitate that," he said.
He was unable to say what proportion of existing account holders were people living with disability or injury whose physical state required them to sit in the front. He said he was sure something was being put to Mr Williams in writing.
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