While most of us were at home, chilling on the couch watching Netflix and spending time with family and friends during this festive period, Mr. Steven Chua was busy on the roads, ferrying passengers to their gatherings.
This father-of-three has supported his family as a taxi driver for 17 years. For him, forgoing family time on Lunar New Year is a necessity because, “It’s more important to earn, to put food on the table for my kids, to make sure my wife doesn’t have to worry about expenses.”
According to Mr. Chua, driving a taxi is hard work, but he values its flexibility. His family’s needs will determine the time he spends on the road.
He said, “If you need to earn more, then you just have to work a bit more,” he said.
Nerves of Steel
However, cab driving is genuinely a job meant for those with nerves of steel, especially since taxi drivers like Mr. Chua get the front row seat to the pandemic. And during a pandemic, this seat bears few privileges, just hardship.
When COVID-19 first hit our shores two years ago, Mr. Chua could only earn $80 a day, a significant drop from his regular income of $200. This income was insufficient to cover his daily rental and his family’s essential expenses.
“How do I put food on the table? How will my children cope with home-based learning? We only had one laptop … with three children; how would they share? I had to think of a way,” he added.
Thus, to supplement his income, Mr. Chua had to take on a part-time job as a dormitory operator to support migrant workers.
“I helped them to check-in and prepare the rooms for them. I also helped distribute the meals,” Mr. Chua shared.
This meant Mr. Chua faced risks of getting infected with the virus, but as always, meeting his children’s needs remained his priority.
Leadership During a Crisis
Mr. Chua also received assistance from the Government and NTUC, including the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (SIRS) and the COVID-19 Driver Relief Fund (CDRF).
During this challenging period, Mr. Chua, who is also the general secretary of the National Taxi Association (NTA), played a significant role in extending support to other taxi drivers in a similar situation as him.
“Since I’m driving around, I do see people outside. So then, if there are people who do not have unions and their own relatives or siblings cannot help … 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,” added Mr. Chua.
Business may have improved since the early days of COVID-19; however, according to Mr. Chua, the pandemic has created a sense of wariness and weariness among drivers like himself.
“I think for most taxi drivers because they earn daily, they will always believe that every day you get passengers, every day you earn this money, so you can still survive.
“Most people spend whatever they have daily. After experiencing COVID, I think we have to save for a rainy day. We cannot take anything for granted. We must be prepared,” he said.
Original article from Labourbeat