Cabbies ‘driven to long hours by targets’



ABU DHABI // Taxi drivers who signed up for eight-hour shifts on a basic salary plus commission have discovered the reality is very different.

Some found themselves working extraordinarily long hours to meet employers' revenue targets.

The Abu Dhabi taxi regulator TransAD and taxi companies this month said long working hours were not being imposed on drivers, and they were entitled to a weekly day off.

Of the 12 drivers surveyed by The National last week, six said they normally worked 14 to 15 hours a day; one 14 to 16 hours, two 16 to 18 hours; and three for 12 hours.

The drivers, aged 26 to 48, are from Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Uganda and the Philippines and work for the six franchise companies in the city.

All said they work seven-day weeks.

“Of course, who doesn’t want to work for eight hours a day?” said a 42-year-old Filipino driver for Tawasul who works 14 to 15 hours a day. “But we’ll not be able to meet our target and send enough for our families back home.”

Taxi drivers have a low base salary but are paid a commission calculated as a percentage of their total collection.

At Tawasul, drivers receive a Dh1,000 basic salary plus commission. The driver is guaranteed a 20 per cent commission if he brings in Dh500 a day, or Dh13,500 a month.

Last month, he earned Dh13,500 in fares and was paid Dh3,700.

A 35-year-old Nepalese driver who works for Al Ghazal Taxi works 16 to 18 hours a day to hit a Dh440 daily target for a 24 per cent commission.

He was paid Dh3,100 last month based on the Dh13,200 he earned in fares.

A Ugandan who was paid Dh4,900 last month had the highest income among the 12 drivers surveyed. The 37-year-old Emirates Taxi driver said he worked 14 to 15 hours a day and brought in Dh16,000.

“I start work at 6am, take short breaks and make sure I’m out on the road during peak hours,” he said.

Frederick Kalungi, an Emirates Taxi driver who was not part of the survey, said he wished all taxi companies would follow a uniform commission structure, benefits and wages.

“We are also being fined when they notice a minor scratch on our taxis, even if it’s not our fault,” said the Ugandan, 29.

In contrast, a Cars Taxi driver from India received Dh920 after working 14 to 15 hours a day last month. He set a Dh500 daily target for himself so he could earn a 30 per cent commission, but failed to achieve it.

Drivers who bring in Dh450 a day get a 25 per cent commission; those with daily earnings of Dh390 are paid 10 per cent, he said. “The targets are too high,” he added.

Drivers are allowed to keep their vehicles for 24 hours, unless they work under a dual-shift system. In that case, they have the cars for 12 hours and share with another driver.

A 38-year-old Filipino driver who has been working for Tawasul for 15 months, works a 12-hour shift. “We need to work hard or else we risk a Dh50 penalty imposed on low-income earners,” he says.

But Abdul Razaq, general manager of Cars Taxi, said when taxi drivers signed up for the job they were aware of the nature of the industry.

“We are not imposing long hours on them,” he said.

“Each driver follows his own pattern and gets a basic salary and commission. They might work for four hours straight, take a break and get back on the road during peak hours to complete their target.”

rruiz@thenational.ae

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Taxi companies should reconsider drivers' rosters to improve road safety while still giving cabbies a chance to reach revenue targets, experts say. Many drivers, on a basic salary of about Dh1,000, say they are behind the wheel up to 15 hours a day to bring in the Dh500 needed for a 20 per cent commission. Taxi drivers say they rely on the commission and do not expect tips – which is just as well. "Occasionally we get about Dh10 to Dh15 a day but most days we don't get any," said Indian Sunil Thampy. "Tipping helps but it is not necessary."

Read more:

UAE taxi companies should consider the impact of driver fatigue

Rise in taxi fares meant decrease in tipping, UAE drivers say

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“We decided that it was fit for purpose but we need to deepen it in terms of community relationships, extending them not only with the traditional community but the virtual one as well," he told The National.

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