Problems with Dublin’s rickshaw service

How much do we actually know about the people running Dublin’s rickshaws, asks Ugne Aksiutovaite.

The rickshaw service in Dublin is run privately by unidentified employers, who are not regulated by Dublin City Council or any other Government institution.

Associated with illegal uninsured immigrants, drug dealing and sexual assault, the rickshaw drivers have a horrible reputation within the community.

The top of Grafton Street, near the Luas St Stephen’s stop, is a common place for rickshaw drivers to hang around waiting for customers. A few of them were willing to discuss their jobs and experience in the service they provide.

Renato, Aijo and Pedro have all been working as rickshaw drivers for no longer than two years. “We got invited into the business by our friends,” claimed Renato. “But there are also ads online.”

However, these advertisements appear on websites like www.gumtree.ie, where the advertisers remain private, providing only a telephone number for contact. There are no given names that would refer to the employer or advertiser, except for “Gumtree User”.

“The status of a rickshaw as a public-service vehicle needs to be defined”

When questioned about who exactly is in charge of the rickshaws, the drivers were reluctant to say much.

“There are a few people in charge – like six,” was all that Pedro said. “We do know them. We have to meet them before we can get the job. We also have to give €100 to them every week as rent for the rickshaw.”

However, the drivers themselves do not even make the minimum wage. The only money that they get is whatever they manage to earn throughout the night.

“We make like €300 a week during the good season. We make more money over winter than we do in the summer,” said Pedro.

Dublin City Council has been trying to bring in regulations to the rickshaws for some time.

“The status of a rickshaw as a public-service vehicle needs to be defined,” said the Parking Enforcement Officer, Ethine Gibbons. This was said in a Report to the Chairperson and Members of the Transportation Strategic Policy Committee of Dublin City Council back in 2014.

As of now, the rickshaws have no defined fares, licence, permits or appointed stands.

Even though the issue has been highlighted for years, nothing has been done to change the situation regarding rickshaws in Dublin.  

When asked about the recent series of talks about bringing in regulations on the rickshaw service, the drivers all agreed that it was a good idea. “It would give us more rights as workers,” said Pedro. “And we won’t have to be running away from the police any more.”

Some gardaí did show up that night, making the rickshaws flee and cutting the interview short.

“The rickshaw drivers are scumbags. They sell drugs, rape and hurt people,” said one of the gardaí before accusing me of being a drug mule. “And when I see you talking to them, I expect you to be a scumbag too because they get women to carry their drugs.”

Dublin City Council issued an advisory notice, informing members of the public that “rickshaws operating in Dublin city are not regulated by Dublin City Council or otherwise” and that “some rickshaw operators appear not to have public-liability insurance”.

The rickshaw drivers operate against the will of the Gardaí and Dublin City Council. They are not licensed workers and the identity of whoever is in charge of the service remains unknown.

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