TAXI drivers in Teignbridge are on the war path after a cab firm boss claimed he was forced to employ foreign staff because he couldn't find locals willing to do the job.
Daniel Hooper, managing director of Newton Abbot-based Teignbridge Taxis, revealed he has recruited 15 drivers from Romania.
He has said he had to bring in drivers from Europe because 'the majority of drivers we've come across locally didn't seem to want to work the anti-social hours or put themselves out for the customer'.
But the Teignbridge Taxi and Private Hire Association, which has 119 members, has hit back and is calling for a face-to-face meeting with Mr Hooper.
The association said in a statement: "We feel very strongly concerning the comments made by Mr Hooper.
"Companies within the Teignbridge area do not have a problem recruiting drivers, existing drivers do go the extra mile and work unsociable hours, contrary to his comments.
"As a direct result of his comments, existing drivers are very angry and feel the main reason for employing the Romanian drivers is for his financial benefit — they will work for less money."
The association claimed Mr Hooper was in favour of deregulation in the taxi industry which it says caused in excess of 250 licensed vehicles to be on the road.
The association claimed: "Mr Hooper is now suffering the consequences, along with our members, so we feel Mr Hooper should shoulder the responsibilities of his former actions and try to find solutions for the benefit of the trade as a whole and not alienate himself, his company and his drivers from the rest of the trade.
"We would like to propose a face-to-face meeting with Mr Hooper to discuss what is happening within the trade not just within his company."
Association secretary David Williams said: "There's only one cake and if there are more drivers, the slices get smaller.
"It doesn't do the trade any good to say we can't get drivers."
Independent taxi driver Dave Cowling, 51, who has been doing the job for 23 years, said the situation began with deregulation.
He said: "Over the last six years we've had a massive influx of Hackney carriages. This drastically cut the incomes of taxi drivers in Teignbridge."
Mr Hooper told the Herald Express he would be happy to have a face to face meeting or phone call with association chairman John Partridge but he was unwilling to attend an association meeting.
"I'm not going to be summoned before people to discuss my business. I haven't done anything wrong," he said. "But I'm willing to talk to Mr Partridge and try to settle issues he has obviously got."
He said just this week he had to turn work away and he had customers waiting up to an hour for a taxi. Mr Hooper said foreign workers were also paid the same. He also denied he had been in favour of deregulation and was just asking the council for 'half a dozen Hackney plates for my drivers'.