Unite Wales says drivers are at a “mighty low” (Credit: bbc.com)
Wales, UK – Unite Wales, which represents cabbies, claims ministers have “forgotten” the industry, while concentrating support on buses and trains.
One private hire driver in Cardiff said he had been lucky to earn £25 a day during the restrictions.
The Welsh Government said it was continuously reviewing support.
Taxi drivers are preparing to hold a demonstration outside Cardiff’s City Hall on Tuesday.
During lockdown, pubs, bars and restaurants were closed and events were cancelled, and while many venues have now reopened, early closing times and social distancing measures are in place with people being urged to work from home.
Unite branch secretary Yusef Jama said the restrictions meant many cabbies were spending hours waiting for a fare and many were earning less than £25 a day.
Mr Jama said anxiety and depression among drivers was now at a crisis point, and many were struggling financially and worried for their families.
“I’ve had really, really concerning conversations with drivers, where they feel left on their own, nobody to turn to and to speak about the problems they go through,” he said.
“Some of these conversations, it’s got to the point where I don’t know if these drivers are going to be alive tomorrow.
“They feel like they’re going to lose their house, they’re having problems with their family because they’re not providing for their families.”
At the rank at Cardiff Central Station, Abdel Kadir, a driver in the city for 18 years, said he had waited three hours before his first fare.
Before the pandemic, he said, the rank would be busy taking people from the station, but now there are fewer passengers to transport across the city.
“All the taxis here depend on the London train. Before there would be 10 to 15 cars moving, now maybe one or two or three if you are lucky because the trains come empty,” he said.
“With this pandemic people aren’t moving and all the staff are working from home or by video.”
Father-of-three Rofikul Islam said his family was terrified of him going to work and, potentially, being exposed to the virus, but he worried about falling into debt.
“It’s very bad at the moment,” he said. “We have to wait three to four hours for a fare and after the three hours, four hours, we get a £6 fare. All day we work for £25, £27.”
He added: “Nobody’s helping us, so we have to try ourselves.
“We’re taking a risk, we can’t do nothing, we have to come out to do our best.”
The majority of taxi drivers are self-employed and are entitled to the UK government’s Self Employed Income Support Scheme grant extension.
The grant, which is taxable, covers 80% of profits for November, December and January, up to a limit of £7,500.
But drivers claim that the industry was struggling before the pandemic, with many making little profit once vehicle costs and licenses were taken from the fares.
Eva Dukes’ income disappeared overnight when schools and offices closed in March.
The private hire driver, who lives in Cardiff with her three children, said her contracts stopped and, with her husband also being a taxi driver, the family was struggling to make ends meet.
While Eva and husband Philip received grants under the scheme, it worked out at about £1,000 a month, and she said they had gone through all their savings.
“It’s dire to say the least. Just putting food on the table is a weekly struggle,” she said.
“We need help now. They’ve given money to the buses and the trains and all the other transport, and now we need help for taxi transport, private hires, contractors, they need help.”
In Scotland, the government announced a £30m means-tested fund for drivers, and in Northern Ireland a £14m scheme has been set up.
Union representatives say they want the Welsh Government to provide the same kind of funding.
Alan McCarthy, from the Unite union, said with people not going out and being told to stay home, many drivers had been back at work but unable to make a living for months.
The BBC requested an interview with Transport Minister Ken Skates but it was declined.
In a statement the Welsh Government said support was available for drivers, but it recognized the extent of the challenge coronavirus had caused.
“We are in regular discussion with the sector and will continue to review what support can be made available,” said a spokesman.