x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Abu Dhabi taxi drivers win pay reprieve

A four-hour protest by about 500 taxi drivers wins them a reprieve from contracts they say would dramatically cut their income.

ABU DHABI // A four-hour protest by about 500 taxi drivers yesterday won them a reprieve from contracts they say would dramatically cut their income.

Last June, TransAD announced a unified contract for drivers with all seven of the emirate's taxi firms.

It entitled them to a basic salary of Dh800, paid leave, accommodation outside the city and a different commission structure.

But drivers at Emirates Taxi feared it would leave them out of pocket. Akter Uddin, a Bangladeshi driver for Emirates Taxi, said the drivers at his company were asked to sign the new contract last month, but none did. He said it would have cut his pay from Dh4,000 a month to about Dh1,500.

Yesterday, they turned up en masse at the Emirates Taxi office in the Port Zayed area of the capital to protest.

"We were supposed to start working to the new contracts from today, so we all gathered at 9am because we want to keep our old contracts," said Mr Uddin.

Officials from TransAD, the Ministry of Labour, the police and the company met representatives for the striking workers.

After four hours of talks, a deal was reached under which existing drivers could choose whether to sign a new contract, or stay with the old one until it expired. New drivers will all work under the new contract.

"In the old contract they did not have a basic salary, leave or accommodation - they only received commission," said a spokesman for Emirates Taxi. "Due to the increase in fuel prices, and since the Government wants taxi drivers to live outside the city, the commission structure had to be changed ... but they prefer the old contract."

Imam Hossain, another Bangladeshi driver, was among the protesters. "We have to pay for our own accommodation and do not have a basic salary but we're happy with the way it is," he said.

The old contracts also provided for fines of between Dh50 and Dh100 if they miss their daily target of Dh350. And they had to pay any fines from TransAD and the police, and repair costs.

However, the drivers said they preferred it that way. "If we worked really hard, between 18 to 20 hours a day, we used to make up to 35 per cent in commission, but under the new contract we get eight per cent only," said Mr Hossain.

They preferred being able to choose their own accommodation in the city, rather than having to move to Musaffah. "It'll take and hour to get there and an hour to come back," Mr Hossain added.

hdajani@thenational.ae