Concern for taxi drivers

Updated: 2012-02-29 08:02

(China Daily)

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Finally, taxi drivers can see a ray of hope that they may no longer be helpless in the face of the merciless demands of taxi companies.

The Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security and the All-China Federation of Trade Unions jointly convened a television and telephone conference to discuss the grievances of taxi drivers on Monday.

After the conference the Ministry of Transport promised that it will push the taxi companies to be transparent about their costs, so both parties can agree how much money a taxi driver will pay for the use of a taxi and in social security contributions when drawing up a contract.

The meeting also decided that the drivers' holidays will not be included in the calculation of the fees to make sure that taxi drivers get their days off.

As a senior transport official pointed out at the meeting, more than half of disputes between taxi drivers and their companies are caused by the unreasonable fees the companies have levied on drivers, the irregularities in their work contracts and the lack of protection for drivers' rights and interests.

In Beijing, a taxi driver running 49 hours a week on the average can make about 4,000 yuan ($600). Though this is higher than the average disposable income of Beijing residents for 2011, they have to work extra hours to pocket that amount. Their counterparts in small cities will make even less as taxi fares are cheaper.

The drivers claim that the taxi companies take an unreasonably large bite out of their incomes. However, most companies also complain that their profits are down in recent years due to their increasing costs.

There are more than 8,700 taxi companies throughout the country employing about 2 million drivers.

The decisions of the meeting are apparently in favor of the taxi drivers. But well-intentioned words are one thing, actions another.

Taxi drivers need to have their own representatives that can negotiate on their behalf with taxi companies. Whether both parties can negotiate on an equal footing and the negotiation process is transparent will be key to the decisions fulfilling their purpose.

If anything, this is just the beginning. There is a long way to go before the rights and interests of taxi drivers are well protected.

(China Daily 02/29/2012 page8)