Nicosia urban taxi drivers on Thursday delivered the government a one-month ultimatum to meet their demands, otherwise they would escalate their measures.
In their latest protest drawing attention to their profession’s circumstances, taxi drivers lined up their cars in the road outside the presidential palace, blocking one of the two lanes at the roundabout for 15 minutes.
The drivers handed a memo with their demands to the secretary of the cabinet, who would deliver it to President Nicos Anastasiades.
According to Panayiotis Kyllilis, head of the taxi drivers association, the cabinet secretary promised to get back to them with ‘solutions’ in a month’s time.
If that did not happen, he said, they would take more dynamic measures.
The drivers have so far taken ‘soft’ actions, lining up their taxis in front of the transport ministry and the parliament. But they have also been threatening that, if they are pushed to the limit and ignored, they will start blocking roads and go on widespread strike.
Their grievances relate to the high working costs which they say are threatening the profession’s survival.
They say the state can do a great deal to help, such as lowering the cost of petrol, insurance, or an exemption from VAT, instead of promoting only public buses.
A major complaint concerns unfair licensing, and they have called on the transport ministry to fight illegal competition and unfair competition.
Kyllilis claimed that, far from helping, transport ministry officials have been blackmailing taxi drivers into halting their campaign.
Officials were also writing up drivers for supposed violations by which they risked losing their licences.
People working for the Road Transport Department, he said, have directly threatened taxi drivers that their licences would be revoked unless they stopped.
On one occasion, alleged Kyllilis, RTD officers told his colleagues: “Tell your president [Kyllilis] to shut up, otherwise we will shut him up. And you will all suffer because of what this man is saying.”
He further claimed that the same threat was made to him personally this week.
He planned to make a written complaint to the chief of police and the justice minister.
That is why, explained Kyllilis, they have now decided to explore other avenues by appealing directly to the president.
Soteris Kolettas, head of the RTD, denied Kyllilis’ allegations, in turn accusing the latter of interfering in official department actions underway against other taxi drivers.
Asked to comment on the cabbies’ latest action, Transport Minister Marios Demetriades told reporters he was surprised.
“To be honest, I would have expected thanks from them, not mobilisations,” Demetriades said, referring to a series of meetings he had with the taxi drivers.
His ministry, he said, has resolved a number of issues facing the profession, for example by lowering the road tax for them.
Nonetheless, Demetriades said he was always available to meet and listen to the taxi drivers.