x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

RAK cabbies demand more pay and fewer fines

Taxi drivers in the emirate are demanding a guaranteed monthly salary and calling for better accounting of fines levied against them.

Taxi drivers in Ras Al Khaimah are demanding a salary.
Taxi drivers in Ras Al Khaimah are demanding a salary.

RAS AL KHAIMAH // Taxi drivers in the emirate are demanding a guaranteed monthly salary and calling for better accounting of fines levied against them by the RAK Transport Authority (RAKTA). Hopes of a large-scale protest yesterday morning were dampened when the authority issued a circular warning that drivers would be "penalised and prosecuted" for breaking rules. But about 30 drivers from Al Hamra Taxi and Cars Taxi gathered anyway, and transport authorities agreed to hear their concerns. Officials from the RAKTA and the taxi companies declined to comment.

Most drivers earn between Dh1,000 (US$272) and Dh2,000 a month. Following a protest in June, drivers said, the transport authority agreed to give them a 25 per cent commission on their total fares, but cancelled their guaranteed base salary of Dh500 a month. The drivers want a 30 per cent commission plus the guaranteed base salary. The cabbies also want the RAKTA to reduce fines and do a better job of explaining them, and they want medical insurance.

Drivers were often fined hundreds of dirhams a month, they said, but were not told why and when the penalties had been incurred. They want the authority to clarify its regulations and reduce fines. "RAK Transport Authority makes the fine anywhere, anytime, without fault," said one driver from Bangladesh. "They make fines and the driver doesn't understand he has a fine. Maybe RAK Transport Authority will say your fine is 500, 600, 700 dirham, like this.

"For some people, [fines are] taking maybe 40 or 50 per cent of their income. We ask them, but they are not giving the answer." "Everyone is now paying every month," said a driver from Pakistan who has worked here for a year. "[For] small things, they are giving fines. If a seat is a little dirty, they are giving a fine. "If we stop anywhere, they are giving us a fine." Many taxi drivers said their mistakes were a result of fatigue caused by their long hours.

"We are not working eight hours, we are working more than 15, 18 hours," one of them said. @Email:azacharias@thenational.ae