When the fake story about taxi drivers earning $7000 a month was ran in Straits Times, a storm in the teacup was brewing. The coverage by foreigner Straits Times reporter Maria Almenoar featured as a “Transport Correspondent”, painted a rosy picture of how a hardworking young taxi driver quitted his former General Manager post to take home a salary more than what fresh graduates are taking. To add salt to the wound, the taxi driver scorned at his fellow colleagues saying they earn a lot lesser because they spend more time chatting in coffee shop. This report came out on the light of the increasing complains by the taxi drivers about having to work long hours for low salaries ever since the taxi fare hike was increased in Dec 6 2011, with the Consumer Association calling the increase “hefty” [Source].
Members of the public were sarcastic, with a popular facebook page 9gag making a poster saying “Taxi drivers are earning $7000 a month. why get a degree? a taxi license is all you need”. Most taxi drivers were furious at the Straits Times report, condemning it untrue and ludicrous. While the Straits Times have long been accepted as a PAP Government propaganda mouthpiece, nobody expected them to chart such new low in their credibility record(if any).
In response to the backlash, the Filipino Straits Times reporter Maria Almenoar today ran a rebuttal commentary to Singaporeans saying she has done her due diligence during her one-off interviews with the few high net worth taxi drivers. Maria even blamed the taxi companies for her lopsided reporting saying they were the ones who shortlisted the drivers for her interview.
The particular taxi driver featured didn’t know the headline of the report was about his salary which have subjected him to much ridicule of his colleagues. It turns out that the $7000 was an exceptional month and it is untrue such an earning can be consistent. Maria’s follow-up report may be blaming others for her inaccuracies, but it was a subtle confession to savage whatever little credibility she and Straits Times have over the incident.
Taxi drivers are known to work long hours with no medical leave or annual leave. Their companies merely acted as rental lords who squeeze their drivers with rents from $69 to $116 a day. All new taxis in Singapore from 1985 can only be rented from the taxi companies, the privately-owned taxis typically known as the yellow cabs are discontinued after former Minister of Communications and former President Mr Ong Teng Cheong stepped down. Private taxi owners could live comfortably on their earned salaries without worries of the monthly rental unlike their counterparts who are usually subjected to unfair company clauses like the compulsory camera fit ruling. The average income of taxi drivers are about $10/hr depending on experiences and other cost variables like summons. Driving 12 hours a day everyday could guarantee a driver $3600 a month but the mental and physical stress is too taxing for older drivers. The current average age for taxi drivers is 50, but its poised to get younger as the average retrenchment age of Singaporeans trends lower in the recent years.