AN urgent call has gone out from Australia for Irish taxi drivers.
They're needed to fill 1,000 jobs in Melbourne, where there is a chronic cabbie shortage.
The taxi plan aims to attract drivers with the promise of a guaranteed job and attractive lifestyle.
The cabbies would have to undergo a two-week training course, but the standard training fee of Aus$900 would be waived.
Taxi-Link, the largest cab firm in Melbourne, already has 160 cars on the road and is planning a big expansion.
The company originally approached Greek drivers but was unable to overcome problems with visas and language difficulties. Now it wants to employ Irish drivers.
Company founding partner Harry Katsiabanis says the visa rules between the two countries make it much easier for Irish drivers to get working holiday visas.
Mr Katsiabanis said when they offered the positions in Greece the story was carried by all the major TV and radio stations and their website received over 22,000 hits over 13 days with 5,000 applications.
"Most of these applicants are not suitable, as their level of English is not adequate and they will struggle to gain a visa.
"As a result we have researched other countries and believe that the Irish community would better suit our needs."
The company is planning a trip to Ireland to offer seminars and first-hand information to anyone interested in taking up their offer.
Taxi-Link was set up in 2003 and Mr Katsiabanis, who was originally a taxi driver himself, has been involved in the industry since 1988.
Every driver employed by the company has to undergo training. This includes on-the-road mentoring by experienced cab drivers, role-play sessions to deal with situations like handling difficult passengers, and the use of GPS navigation and in-car cameras to assess performance.
The company is involved in all aspects of the industry and has a purpose-built taxi workshop, which includes mechanical services, panel beating and a tyre centre. It also runs a taxi brokerage service, buying and selling taxi licences.