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28 December, 2005

All cheer for the cabbies

Hooray for Dubai cabbies, a horrifically underpaid and under-appreciated profession whose bosses were trying to screw even more blood out of an already well-squeezed stone.

Taxis in Dubai are only charged by distance, meaning that in these days of perma-gridlock, drivers are stuck for hours in traffic earning zero money. Drivers also have to carry out all their own maintenance, despite paying huge daily rentals for their cabs, and face numerous fines for even the smallest scratches.

"Most of us end up working up to 24 hours daily to generate the minimum collection of Dh260 plus Dh90 for fuel".

"Generating Dh 350 daily was itself difficult, and now the additional amount of Dh25 has been fixed by the company, making it impossible for us to generate the amount even after working 24 hours," complained another driver. He said, "At the end of the month, we have no money".


Happily, two days of industrial action have forced greedy bosses into a climbdown:

Dubai: Hundreds of Metro Taxi drivers ended a two-day protest yesterday against 18-hour working days and poor working conditions after management promised to transfer them to work on a commission basis.

Al Rayah Ebrahim, Metro Taxi's General Manager, confirmed he issued a circular yesterday informing the men that they would not have to pay an increase in car rents and that the company will study applying a commission-based system.


Bonus congratulatory tips are in order from all passengers: these guys took a symbolic risk for all of us.

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14 Comments:

Anonymous trailingspouse said...

I use taxis frequently these days and have noticed that the drivers are visibly tired. Friends also complain about them being grumpy - hardly surprising. Fatigue is a real safety issue as two years ago my husband was in a bad accident on his way to the airport because the taxi driver fell asleep at the wheel; it was only good luck that no one was injured.

At least poor treatment of workers in the UAE seems to be getting increasing press these days. As a poor reputation in this area might affect the tourist industry, I'm hopeful that eventually conditions will improve. In the meantime be generous with your tips!

28 December, 2005 08:30  
Blogger (((dXb))) said...

There are a number of taxi drivers who are courteous and share a good laugh with their passengers, inspite of their situation.

Understandably, others are grouchy. They really are just too stressed!

On one occasion, we were accompanying a friend to the airport and we rode a taxi as I had something to drink. The taxi was going straight to a police car parked at the beginning of a lane separator as he fell asleep. Good thing we noticed it and woke him, and the police did not notice. My wife then talked to the driver and he said he had been working straight for about 18 hours as he needed extra money. My wife gave him extra and advised him to go home or go somewhere near where he can park his taxi and sleep first. We just really hoped that he heeded my wife's advice.

Hopefully, their conditions will improve, resulting to a more relaxable taxi ride for us passengers.

28 December, 2005 08:55  
Blogger Slagothor said...

I think you have made a common error in this post: seeing something that is specific to Dubai and assuming it applies to all of the Emirates.

First of all, here in Abu Dhabi, the taxi meters charge by both distance and time. I've watched the meters closely sometimes, and there is a counter that starts at a thousand and counts dopwn to zero. When it hits zero, an extra 50 Fils goes on the meter and you start at 1000 again. This counter goes quickly when the car is moving, varying with the speed of the car, but it does not stop when the taxi is stopped: it still counts down, albeit slowly. Thus, in AD the taxis charge by a combination of time and distance.

Secondly, based upon conversations I have had with drivers here, they own their own cars, and do not rent them. What they do have to do is pay the owner of the taxi license a monthly fee. Basically they are independent contractors, small business owners as it were, who are obliged to pay a large licensing fee to a national every month for the privelige of having a valid taxi license.

Of course, this is not true for the "upscale" cabs, the NTC and al Ghazal ones.

Please, try to remember that there is more to this country than the city of Dubai.

28 December, 2005 10:40  
Blogger The Devil's Advocate said...

The effects of inflation in this country are slowly rippling through all sectors.

Funny how in the same year the UAE posts ground breaking GDP figures, brings it's budget in surplus, achieves world beating standard of living figures that we've also had the most number of working class strikes (as far as I can remember).

A change is gonna come.

28 December, 2005 11:12  
Anonymous Noisy American said...

Although the system seems a bit better in Abu Dhabi, it still leaves the drivers with very little take-home pay at the end of the day. Apparently the fee for taxis hasn't changed in about 25 years, though of course the cost of living has increased. Although this may be good for the riders, it's obviously not good for the drivers. It's not only taxi drivers that suffer in the UAE. What would happen to this country if workers started receiving a fair wage? Honestly, I don't know how some of these workers survive on their salaries.

28 December, 2005 11:31  
Blogger secretdubai said...

slagothor - thanks for pointing that out, I will amend!

28 December, 2005 12:02  
Blogger Tim Newman said...

Yeah, I'd love to be driven in a taxi by someone who hasn't slept in 24 hours.

28 December, 2005 13:05  
Anonymous mohamed Elzubeir said...

I don't believe that the meter completely stops if the car is not moving. This could be different between one company and another. However, it does count slower than if it were moving.

I ride taxis every now and then (especially if I were to go out and have a few drinks). I have seen all kinds of taxi drivers, from the religious fanatic to the grumpy to the excessively happy no matter what. I tip depending on the conversation (or lack of -- I don't always want to talk) ;)

I am very glad that there is such a movement, of workers striking and demanding more rights and compensation for their work. It's about time the labor market here becomes more responsive to the suppliers of labor as opposed to it being a pure modern slavery.

28 December, 2005 13:48  
Blogger John B. Chilton said...

There's a reason that you can't find a taxi in Dubai when the traffic is moving at a crawl. And it's not that all the taxis are taken.

28 December, 2005 15:33  
Blogger moryarti said...

True - my friend takes a cab to work everyday; same route, some company. He ends up paying more if his ride got caught in traffic..

28 December, 2005 16:20  
Blogger hdastoor said...

cost of 754 cabs = 754 x dh.80,000=60 million dirhams

daily income from 754 cabs=754 x dh.265=dh 200,000

yearly income from 754 cabs= dh 200,000 x 365= dh.72 millions

In other words including overheads, fixed salaries etc metro cabs should recouperate all start up costs within 1 year.

From the second year onwards since all the cabs are payed for in full, they can just sit back and collect the money while poor cab drivers suffer.

There is no excuse for them to raise prices.
Shame on Metro cab

28 December, 2005 17:29  
Blogger Balushi said...

One thing we cannot understand is what Gulfnews understands that we will accept the Non-Use of the word "PROTEST" OR "STRIKE"


Reminds me of the Govt. Fees!!!

and Profit at Islamic banks.

28 December, 2005 18:36  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I usually tip very well, however, when you get in a cab and the guy has no idea where a major landmark or hotel is you have to wonder what is going on.

It's not uncommon for the driver to have been in the country a fortnight and he's now responsible for not only getting you to your destination but also being comfortable and aware on the roads.

When unsure, rather than ask you to explain where you want to go (as this may offend) they just drive off and hope that you'll notice and send them the right way.

29 December, 2005 10:50  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The strike was a very good move by the Metro cab drivers. I think they took a leaf out of the books of the NY underground strike. Sad to say, though, I think the standard response will be for the management to let the drivers come back to work, lull them into a sense of management concern about their welfare and then fire them all as soon as they can, or phase this batch of drivers out. They can do that here since no just labour law is applied in this region. One day this abuse of employee rights must come to an end.

29 December, 2005 12:09  

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