“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.”
This is what drives cabby Steven Chua to work even on Lunar New Year.
The father-of-three has supported his family as a taxi driver for 17 years. It is a job he enjoys because of the flexibility it offers.
He can determine when and how long he works to meet their needs.
“If you need to earn more, then you just have to work a bit more,” he said.
This is usually the case. But when COVID-19 hit two years ago, Steven had to navigate some major bumps along the way.
Riding Out the Pandemic
Before the pandemic, Steven, who drives for Trans-Cab, could earn around $200 a day. At the start of the pandemic, this dropped to $80.
It was not enough to cover rental and other costs.
“During that time, I got 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,” he shared.
The job came with some risks of getting infected with the virus, but Steven did what he had to do, always with his family in mind.
“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
Steven also received some assistance from the Government and NTUC during those difficult days. This included the Self-Employed Person Income Relief Scheme (SIRS) and the COVID-19 Driver Relief Fund (CDRF).
Being the general-secretary of the National Taxi Association (NTA), 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 said.
Business has picked up since then, especially around the festive period. But Steven continues to work hard, as always.
“I think for most taxi drivers, because they earn on a daily basis, they will always think that every day you get passengers, every day you earn this money, so you can still survive.
“Most people spend whatever they have on a daily basis. 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.
And so, while most people go about enjoying the festivities, Steven will be out and about ferrying them to their gatherings.
He soaks in the atmosphere and appreciates the light-hearted holiday vibes.
“Not only on Lunar New Year, even on Hari Raya or Deepavali, if you work on these days, passengers are especially very kind, they are very happy, and some may even give you a red packet,” Steven said.
On the eve of Lunar New Year, the Labour Movement went out and about to spread cheer to essential workers like Steven. Read more about the visit on NTUC’s website.