Having fought vigorously against Uber since the ride-share service first arrived in Australia, Victoria’s Taxi Association today announced it is abandoning industrial action against the newcomer, and will take a different approach to the changing market.
As reported in The Guardian Australia, the association’s chief executive, David Samuel, acknowledged the industry has not reacted well to criticism. Samuel has announced a new initiative which calls for honest feedback from taxi customers to help the industry improve.
“In 2015, if we’re not providing a service people want to use, then the amount of competition will see our industry decline,” Samuel says. “It’s all very well to accept criticism, but there has been a failure in the past to dig down into the problems and to try to understand them and respond to them.”
“We’ve been around for about 150 years and have responded to many challenges over that time, and we’ll do it again.”
This announcement comes at a volatile time for the industry, and may prove divisive among Victoria’s taxi drivers.
In September, Victorian drivers rallied at Parliament House in Melbourne, calling on the government to crack down on Uber. Similar protests occurred in Sydney and Canberra.
While uberBLACK (Uber’s premium service) is usually licensed like a standard hire-car service, the cheaper uberX service is not regulated. Additionally, as uberX drivers are independent operators, they are not subject to the same regulations and fees as taxi drivers, so can undercut them.
Two months ago, a Victorian Taxi Association spokeswoman told Fairfax that their demonstration against Uber “reflects the rising level of frustration in the taxi industry as legitimate taxi businesses are being expected to compete with an illegal service which refuses to comply with Victorian commercial passenger vehicle regulations.”
It seems that now, the industry has acknowledged this energy could be better spent lifting internal standards to meet the competition.