The life of a taxi driver is not easy. They get a tough time from passengers, they get a tough time from the taxi companies and the only time they hear from the LTA is probably when they get into trouble. The National Taxi Association is one organisation that can offer them defence and voice – and their work is seen recently when one taxi company ran into complications and had to shut.
Smart is now in the process of folding up its business. In the course of doing so, some 300 drivers will be losing a means of income. Like hawkers, taxi drivers are considered “self-employed”. They do not enjoy the protection of a union, nor the Employment Act and in this case, “retrenchment” means they will be on their own. Not a single cent will be paid out. This is where the National Taxi Association gets to work – although not a union in the traditional sense of the word, but the body does act as a negotiator and mediator for the drivers.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity of attending a meeting between the National Taxi Association and some members that rent taxis from Smart. Although Smart had assured drivers that it is the company’s priority to make sure that all existing contracts will remain the same, many a driver is still fearful of the outcome.
What are the driver’s choices from now?
Some wish to carry on their driving careers, but this would mean they would have to apply with another company. There is no guarantee that they would get to do so. Will increased rentals deprive them of incomes? People do not like uncertainty and this is what the drivers are facing.
At the moment, it has been discussed that the NTA, from their own pockets, will be providing $100 and NTA membership waiver for 3 months for their members who are still driving with Smart taxis. And if they wish to explore new lines of work, they will have access to e2i for (free?) courses to upgrade their skills.
I would be keen to find out more about the negotiation process and will share more when news is released.