x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Under threat of deportation, 95 per cent of RAK cabbies sign contract

Many had initially objected to terms over the reimbursement of fuel expenses and the structure of their salaries.

RAS AL KHAIMAH // More than 95 per cent of taxi drivers have signed new contracts, according to officials, after being threatened with deportation if they did not. Many had initially refused, objecting to terms that meant they would be reimbursed only Dh17 for fuel expenses for every Dh100 of fares, unless they could prove they needed the extra fuel for work. Officials of RAK Transport Authority (Rakta) said the contracts improved the rights of drivers by guaranteeing 25 per cent commission on fares.

However, the new structure, which had been in place informally since protests last June, offers no base salary. Previously, drivers had a Dh500 base salary each month, with commission on a sliding scale from 10 to 30 per cent. The authority hopes the new contracts will mark an end to a year of disputes between the drivers and the taxi companies. "At the end of the day we are here to protect these drivers," said Jason Farhat, the director of commercial and investment affairs for Rakta. "We wanted to give them something, so at least they feel protected."

Most drivers, having been warned they would be deported, had signed by the end of last week. Those who have not yet done so will be given a few more days before action is taken, Rakta said. Those who still refuse will have to pay their traffic fines but will have all other debts to the taxi companies waived. "We will force companies to forgive their debt," said Mr Farhat. "If a driver doesn't want to sign he can go with his dignity. We have signed more than 95 per cent of the drivers and they are happy about the new contract."

Some of the drivers still holding out against the new agreement said they would like to continue working under their original terms. A Bangladeshi driver who has not signed said that the Dh17 for fuel costs per each Dh100 in fares is "not enough". He added: "In RAK there are no customers. We need Dh25 for fuel." azacharias@thenational.ae