Abu Dhabi: More than 500 taxi drivers from the Emirates Taxi Company in Abu Dhabi gathered in front of their employer's office yesterday morning to protest alleged planned salary cuts.
But TransAD, the emirate's taxi regulatory authority, told Gulf News that the protest was an expression of the drivers' reluctance to move their accommodation from the city to Mussafah, on the mainland.
The drivers returned to work in the afternoon after the police and other authorities intervened.
The drivers claimed that the company raised their daily income target while it lowered the driver's commission, cut their salaries by the amount of the cost of their accommodation and the cost of their driving licences. "We are willing to move to the accommodation from the city but the company is offering the alternative accommodation very far from the city. Moreover the company is cutting Dh500 [for accommodation] out of Dh800 basic salary," said A.Q., a Bangladeshi driver.
He said drivers were able to earn more than Dh3,000 per month [including basic salary and commission] after working between 14 and 16 hours daily.
Managers from the Emirates Taxi company were not available for comment.
Masoud Mohammad Hashim, general manager of TransAD, told Gulf News that the protest had been motivated by the drivers' misunderstanding of the issues. "It is an Abu Dhabi government law that all accommodations of taxi drivers should be moved to the workers' residential city in Mussafah, on the mainland," he said. Hashim said government departments had already frozen the official transactions of Emirates Taxi company for not implementing that law.
On the issue of house rent Hashim said: "The new salary and commission structure was approved by TransAD and the alleged disparities must be part of those internal arrangements; we found the complaints had no merit." Hashim said these points had been clearly communicated to the workers.
About the alleged raise of the daily target, the official said it was justified because of the recent increase in taxi fares. He said there had been no official complaints about the cost of the driver's licence being cut from salary.
Hashim said drivers had been complaining about the cost of their traffic violations being cut from their salary, which was unacceptable. The official said it was illegal for them to resort to protests.
More than 300 taxi drivers protested yesterday morning against the decision by Sharjah Transport to have taxi drivers pay the company 52 fils for every kilometre they drive as of yesterday.
The decision was implemented yesterday by Union Taxi, and an official at Sharjah Transport, who declined to be named, explained that the four other franchises of Sharjah Taxi would also implement the rule as of today.
"We are supposed to get Dh2,500 per month but after we pay the company their commission we are only left with Dh700 per month. How are we supposed to live on that? I do not have enough money to send back home because I also have to pay for my food and accommodation," said a Union Taxi driver who was protesting outside the Union taxi office behind Al Wahda Street.
When contacted by Gulf News, a spokesperson for Sharjah Transport explained that the reason for the 52 fils charge was made as a result of implementing the Dh10 minimum fare charge on October 1. At the beginning of this year, the fare was Dh1.25 per 800 metres which was raised to Dh1.61 for every 650 metres making a difference of Dh0.36. "All this has been going to drivers," he said.
"We implemented a minimum fare in order to meet the rising cost of fuel, but then we noticed that the taxi drivers were working less and were making 21 trips a day, instead of 29," the Sharjah Transport spokesman said.
If taxi drivers reach a target of Dh333 or more they will receive 35 per cent commission, and only five per cent if they make a target below Dh175.