x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Tawasul taxi drivers win pay increase after strike

Al Ain employees of taxi company Tawasul win pay raise after a five hour strike, but are warned future strikers will be subject to prosecution and deportation.

Tawasul's general manager Abdullah Kassab meets with driver representatives yesterday.
Tawasul's general manager Abdullah Kassab meets with driver representatives yesterday.

AL AIN // Taxi drivers won a pay rise yesterday after going on strike in protest at an increase in their target for takings. About 30 drivers with Tawasul said they now had to pay the company a minimum of Dh8,500 (US$2,300) a month, compared to Dh6,000 previously. To meet the new target, especially during the summer, they often have to drive at least 18 hours a day, they said.

The drivers demanded a reduction in the target, as well as an increase in their present fuel allowance of Dh70 per day. They went back to work after Tawasul agreed to pay all its Al Ain employees a higher allowance over the summer. "When we signed the contracts with Tawasul before we came 10 months ago, we were told that we would only have to pay Dh6,000 per month," said Shashi Dharan, a taxi driver from Mumbai.

"Since arriving here the amount has been increased gradually until where it is now, at Dh8,500. If we make less than that, we are only paid Dh1,000 by the company." As word of the strike reached Tawasul's head office in Abu Dhabi, the company's general manager, Abdullah Kassab, drove up to Al Ain to meet the drivers. In addition, four officials from TransAD, the taxi regulator, also investigated.

"A strike of any kind is a criminal offence and those taking part are subject to arrest," said Ahmad al Nuaimi, TransAD's assistant branch manager for Al Ain. "When 31 taxi drivers refuse to take to the streets this affects hundreds of people in the city, and for that Tawasul could be fined. "We are here to support the public, the taxi drivers and the taxi companies, and to help find solutions to any issues they have," Mr al Nuaimi added.

Tawasul's operations duty manager in Al Ain, Zein El Abdein Farag said he was taken aback by the sudden protest yesterday morning as he had met the drivers on Tuesday, listened to their complaints and told them the company would address their issues within 48 hours. "They didn't even give me 24 hours," Mr Farag said. "As soon as I arrived in Al Ain to assume my responsibilities as the duty operations manager here, I created a bonus system for the drivers to be retroactive from May.

"This was announced to the drivers on Tuesday, but they went on strike the following day." According to Mr Farag, monthly bonuses of up to Dh350 are paid to drivers who meet or exceed the set target of Dh8,500, above the commissions they earn. "The agreement we have with the drivers is that if they bring in Dh8,500 per month they get a commission of 20 per cent. "If they bring in Dh10,500 per month, they get a 25 per cent commission and if they bring in Dh12,500 per month, they get a 30 per cent commission."

When Mr Kassab arrived three hours after the strike began, he met five of the drivers, one representing each of the nationalities involved. "The reason we increased the minimum from Dh6,000 to Dh8,500, was due to a directive from TransAD," Mr Kassab said. "Only four of the 79 Tawasul drivers in Al Ain have not been able to meet this target this month." Mr al Nuaimi explained that when the target was Dh6,000, drivers would submit that amount to Tawasul and then stop driving for the remainder of the month.

"This put a strain on the public as the numbers of taxis on the streets were few," he said. "With the commission system, more drivers are on the road transporting the public." After meeting the drivers Mr Kassab told them that those who do not meet the Dh8,500 but at least make Dh7,500 would receive Dh1,150 per month for the next two months until the summer ends, compared to the previous Dh1,000.

"I wanted to cancel the bonus system altogether because of this strike, but I won't," Mr Kassab told the drivers. "I will consider today's incident as your not knowing the proper methods of how to communicate with management. "There will be no repercussions against you for today's strike, but should this happen again, those participating in a strike will be subject to prosecution and deportation."

The drivers got back behind the wheel and were working again five hours after the strike began.
ealghalib@thenational.ae