Putian, Fujian Taxi Drivers Strike

13:24 Nov 21 2009 Putian Fujian Province China

[A change in policy, however modest, is noted: "In the original plan, another 411 new cabs will enter the market before 2013. But Li said the new cabs will be added to the fleet only after the current drivers receive enough profit.']

From China Daily via What's On Xiamen:

More than 1,200 taxi drivers in Putian, Fujian province, have been on strike for the past eight days to protest an overhaul of the industry by the local government.

The cabbies have taken at least 622 of their vehicles off the city's roads since Nov 18, prompting many of Putian's commuters to turn to buses, motorcycles and even illegal cabs instead.

Many cabbies let the air out of their car tires to show their opposition to the government's moves.

One driver, surnamed Chen, told China Daily he will not be able to make a living under the new system.

"Taxi drivers' fees are too high and I won't be able to work until there is some way to raise compensation or reduce costs," he said.

Local government officials said the taxi industry has to be revamped because of drivers' malpractice. About 300 private drivers and 10 taxis companies started running cabs in 1999. But the taxi service was not satisfactory as drivers sometimes charge more than is allowed and do not give receipts. The taxis also face competition from motorcycles and about 500 illegal cabs in the city.

Also, the city wants the overhaul to put a better, more modern fleet of taxis on the roads.

Last week, a new system was proposed. Old cabs will be bought out by taxi companies with compensation to the drivers, who will need to buy a new car. Drivers are not allowed to trade cabs amongst themselves and are only allowed to sell their cabs back to their company.

Taxi drivers agreed to buy new cabs but they do not agree with the proposed compensation and cab management. A new cab costs about 100,000 yuan ($US14,660) in the city but they only get a compensation of 7,500 yuan a year, for each year left on their license.

If a car license expires in 2011, its owner will be compensated 15,000 yuan.

But local officials defended their proposal. Traffic authorities said private cab trades will be forbidden to avoid further speculation of the cab prices in the area.

Another provision in the proposal mandates that taxi drivers will lose their license if members of the public lodge three complaints against them in one year.

Chen Jingfang, office director of Putian's transportation bureau, said the limit on complaints is meant to correct drivers' attitude toward passengers and spur them to provide better service. But maybe the three-complaint limit is a little harsh, Chen said.

Government officials said the time has come for a more professional taxi industry.

"It's easier to control drivers in a well-run market of the new system that provides high-quality service to the public," Li Huilong, deputy mayor of the city, told China Daily yesterday.

Li said the fare schedule will be appropriately raised. The government will also take measures to reduce the burden on drivers such as cracking down on illegal cabs more severely, giving oil subsidies and putting more controls on motorcycles, in terms of how many are sold and areas that will be restricted to them.

In the original plan, another 411 new cabs will enter the market before 2013. But Li said the new cabs will be added to the fleet only after the current drivers receive enough profit.

Since the strike began, buses have been running until midnight to reduce the inconvenience to residents, Chen said.

Some taxi riders said the cabs are old and dilapidated.

"The drivers charge us 10 yuan to go everywhere in the city and their attitude toward passengers is really bad," a resident surnamed Zheng said.

"I still have other choices like motorcycles, buses, or even illegal cabs if I'm in a hurry."

Many residents said the traffic runs more smoothly without the taxis. They suggest the bus system be improved and more efforts made to crack down on illegal cabs.

In November 2008, taxi drivers in three cities - Chongqing, Sanya in Hainan province and Yongdeng in Gansu province - went on strike because of the high rent they said they had to pay to their companies and the unfair competition from illegal cabs.
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