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Base taxi drivers want more money

Date Posted: 2006-07-22

Local taxi companies doing business on U.S. military installations say they need more money to survive.

The companies say it’s costing 12 times more to operate than only a year ago, and they’re seeking increases. “I know it’s too hard for us to pay the cost of business,” said one taxi company official. “Drivers get a salary, but often have to pay from their own pockets just to operate.”

“Our salary is too low,” says another. “We can’t live. I want the Prefecture to do something. Camp Hansen is the most expensive area for taxis to operate, with it now costing ¥88,500 to run a single taxi. The annual cost this year is ¥980,200. Camp Kinser and Naha Port taxi costs are also high. Costs are projected to jump from ¥4,300 per month to ¥50,500 in October at Camp Kinser, and from ¥3,000 to ¥35,000 in at Naha Port. Futenma costs are forecast to rise from ¥25,770 to ¥51,500 per taxi, while Kadena Air Base projections are for cost increased from ¥15,500 per taxi to ¥50,000.

Taxi companies pay 50% of the operating costs for their taxis, with drivers bearing the other 50%. The Prefecture General Bureau Office says “We’ll have to check the taxi company associations about this.

Taxi operating costs and low wages for drivers is a problem on American military bases in nearby South Korea, where the Army Air Force Exchange Service contracts with a private company, Arirang, to provide on and off-base taxi services. Taxi drivers in two areas with major troop populations went on strike last weekend, claiming they can’t afford to work any longer at the wages being paid. A taxi drivers union spokesman says drivers make only $400~710 a month, and are demanding a major salary increase.

Arirang has thus far refused to accede to driver demands, and AAFES is pressuring the company to fulfill its contract. The strike has idled several hundred taxis, which serve more than 3,000 GI’s a day in the northern camps and greater Seoul area.

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