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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 16 November 2018

Abu Dhabi cabbies’ 15-hour days for extra pay

Taxi drivers at some firms say they have to work up to 15 hours a day before they earn extra commission.
Some taxi drivers have to meet a daily fare target of Dh550 to qualify for commissions. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National
Some taxi drivers have to meet a daily fare target of Dh550 to qualify for commissions. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

ABU DHABI // Taxi drivers in the capital say they often work 15-hour days to secure commissions by meeting their companies’ revenue target.

In Dubai, the Roads and Transport Authority said this week that it would review working time for taxi drivers following reports that they were working dangerously long hours.

Taxi drivers in Abu Dhabi said they had to work long shifts because six months ago their companies increased the revenue target to secure commissions.

Their basic monthly salary is as much as Dh1,150. If they get about Dh550 in fares a day, then they are rewarded with commissions, increasing their pay to between Dh3,500 and Dh4,000.

Atif Mujeeb, a 34-year-old Pakistani driver, said he had to be on the road for at least 15 hours to secure Dh550 in fares a day. The daily target was Dh300 previously.

“In this daily struggle we have lost our health and life to work,” said Mr Mujeeb, who is supporting a wife and four younger siblings in Pakistan.

“We just drive and drive, so that in the end we at least have a decent amount to send home.”

The introduction of more taxis in the city has also made it harder for taxi drivers to find customers.

As a result, they become exhausted and make frequent errors while driving, according to Mr Mujeeb, a taxi driver with six years’ experience.

“Sometimes taxi drivers do not drive properly and cause accidents,” he said. “If one is not mentally relaxed, how can one drive safely?”

Many colleagues had quit because of the increase in competition, he said.

Another Pakistani taxi driver, who has been working in Abu Dhabi for 25 years, agreed that the outlook for members of his profession has worsened in recent years.

“Two years ago, I used to save Dh100 every day. Now it is difficult to save Dh10,” he said.

“I sacrifice sleep and food and even then, on most days, I am unable to achieve my target.”

An Indian cabbie who has been working in the capital for five years had been able to remit “a decent amount of money home”.

“But now it is very difficult. I have to work more than 18 hours to achieve the target,” he said, adding there were many taxis to contend with for passengers.

“Sometimes I don’t get customers for two to three hours.”

However, a Bangladeshi cabbie of four years said not all taxi drivers were facing the same problem because only a few taxi companies raised their daily revenue targets.

“The rest of us have to meet our monthly targets and, accordingly, we get our percentage share, which is decent enough,” he said.

UAE labour law states that workers cannot work for more than eight hours a day, with a maximum of two hours of paid overtime work.

But employment lawyers said taxi drivers were exempt because they were working for commissions.

“It is like your own business,” said Mushtaq Ahmad Qazi, a lawyer with Qazi and Qazi Associates in Dubai.

“A taxi driver’s work is based on commission. The more they work, the more rewarding it becomes.”

Ezz El Shakour, a legal consultant, said taxi companies neither asked nor compelled drivers to work long hours.

“It is their will and decision to work more than eight hours to achieve the target and earn commission,” he said.

Taxi drivers could lodge complaints with the authorities should taxi companies increase their working hours without providing overtime pay, he said.

Abu Dhabi taxi regulator TransAD and taxi company Al Ghazal Transport did not respond to requests for comment.

akhaishgi@thenational.ae