While most of us are busy visiting our relatives and friends during Chinese New Year, like many other taxi drivers, it is business as usual for taxi driver, Steven Chua.
Because to Steven, it is more important to earn, to put food on the table for his kids and so that his wife, a homemaker, would not need to worry about expenses.
Steven has been a taxi driver for about 17 years. The father-of-three said he enjoys working in his line of work because of the flexibility it offers. And on top of the flexibility, Steven can also determine the number of hours he wants to drive, which in turn, determines his income each day.
“You need to earn more, then you just have to work a bit more,” he said.
But that was until COVID-19 hits the world two years ago.
Loss of income during COVID-19 crisis
Before the pandemic, Steven could earn around $200 a day. However, at the start of the pandemic, his income dropped drastically.
He decided to take up a part-time job as a dormitory operator to support migrant workers when he realised that his income from driving a taxi was not enough to cover rental and other costs.
While Steven is aware that the job came with some risks of getting infected with the virus, as a breadwinner, he is more concerned about being able to support his family financially.
“How do I put food on the table? How will my children cope with home-based learning? At that time, we only had one laptop… with three children, how are they going to share it? I had to think of a way,” he added.
A little support goes a long way
Fortunately, Steven received some form of financial help from the Government and the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) during those difficult days.
Such help included the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (SIRS) and the COVID-19 Driver Relief Fund (CDRF), which was rolled out after the National Taxi Association (NTA) and National Private Hire Vehicles Association (NPHVA) gave feedback to the Government that more support is required for this group of workers.
As the General-Secretary of the NTA, Steven said he experienced first-hand how much the schemes had helped him and other taxi drivers who were facing the same situation.
“I meet a lot of people. When they do not have unions – and their own relatives cannot help – then there’s really nowhere they can turn to, or they don’t even know where to turn to. So at least when they call the union, we will come in, and we can tell them what the situation is and how we can help,” Steven shared.
Championing for interests and rights for workers
The challenges which Steven has been facing are not uncommon at all.
Many point-to-point drivers, delivery riders, and essential platform workers alike are still trying to cope with the many challenges thrown in their direction while trying to continue to make a living amidst COVID-19.
In a Facebook post, NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng said that he acknowledges the difficulties that these workers are facing, and he assures that the NTUC and the associations will continue to champion the interests and rights of these workers so that they would have greater peace of mind when going about their work.
You can read his full post below: