Taxi Drivers Strike in Beijing

17:14 Sep 1 2006 Beijing, People's Republic of China


The first indication of anything happening was a rumour earlier this week that the government was going to give Beijing cabbies a day off to celebrate the Party's 85th anniversary on July 1. The next rumor to hit the Danwei inbox was that the city's taxi drivers were going on strike.

But today, July 1, there were enough taxis cruising the streets to get around, although you had to wait for longer than normal. Your correspondent asked several drivers about the strike. They all expressed surprise that I knew about it. They basically said that they weren't really striking, but that many drivers had decided to take it easy today, and work as little as possible.

In other words, it was a go-slow, not a strike. The message they wanted to send was: we are not very happy right now.

Beijing Taxi 2.0

There are a few reasons why Beijing's taxi drivers are unhappy right now:

- Even China's highly subsidized gasoline is starting to get expensive. The juice now costs more than 5 yuan a liter, just under double the price last year. Taxi drivers in Beijing pay their own fuel and maintenance costs.

- The recent compulsory rise in taxi fares to 2.00 yuan (up from 1.2 and 1.6 yuan) means that each cab gets fewer fares, as passengers who watch their pennies decide to use buses and bicycles. Most cabbies seem to report that they used to take about 20 passengers a day; this has now fallen to 10 to 15 a day. Passengers are especially avoiding long taxi trips, when the price increase would mean much higher fares. (The starte fare of 10 yuan has not changed.)

- Taxi drivers usually have to pay a management fee to the company that owns their cars of between 2,000 and 6,000 yuan a month. Most taxi drivers seem to be clearing about 1,000 to 2,000 yuan a month after paying those fees and fuel and maintenance costs. That's not a lot of money to live on, especially when you consider that cabbies usually work seven very long days a week.

- Cabbies are on the lowest rung of Beijing's ladder of car drivers: whereas cops will often turn a blind eye to traffic infringements by guys in black Audi's, and yuppie girls in zippy new cars, the taxi drivers get busted every time a cop sees them do anything wrong.

- The city government occasionally introduces kooky and arbitrary new rules that taxi drivers are supposed to follow. The most outrageous of these rules are that all taxi drivers are supposed to learn English before the 2008 Olympic Games; there will apparently be some sort of test in 2007. This is roughly the equivalent of requiring all of New York's taxi drivers to speak fluent Mandarin by 2010.

The go-slow activity today was a very mild expression of frustration of Beijing cabbies at a city that does not seem to care.

While many of Beijing's taxi drivers sure could use some lessons in the basic geography of the city, oral and foot hygiene, and customer service, on the whole they are a decent lot, ready to laugh and friendly. They almost never cheat passengers, despite what people tell you, and they are often helpful beyond the call of duty.

Taxi drivers are also the front line of the real welcoming committee that will greet most foreign visitors in 2008 when the city is packed with Olympic spectators. So if they are unhappy, the city should do its best to find out why, and make sure that they greet guests at the airport with a big smile.

From CLB:

July 2006. Beijing. A group of taxi drivers stage a strike.

From RFA:

7月1号, 北京部分出租车司机因油价上涨等原因拒绝上班.下面是自由亚洲电台记者高山的采访报道。

在北京汽油价格上涨的情况下, 北京的出租车司机普遍感到油价的压力. 据香港的 < 南华早报>报道,7月1号,北京的部分出租车司机拒绝上班,记者打电话到北京会友出租汽车公司查证这一消息, (录音)

北京会友出租汽车公司工作人员李先生说,油价上涨后,出租车司机平均每月支出大约上涨了300元人民币,不过他们公司按规定给司机每月300元的补贴.他同时指出, 今年5月北京的出租车费用由原来的每公里一点六元上涨到两元, 涨价幅度为百分之二十五, 涨价后, 乘客数量减少了,出租司机的收入也随之减少,这就是北京出租车司机拒绝上班的原因.

记者又打电话到北京天坛出租汽车公司了解他们那里是否有司机拒绝上班的情况, (录音)

北京天坛汽车出租公司王先生说,油价涨价后,他们公司也给司机增加了燃料补贴.他指出, 最近北京有谣传说, 政府可能会在8月1号取消对出租车司机的燃料补贴, 引起部分司机的不满, 这可能是部分出租车司机拒绝上班的原因, (录音)

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