Image by Qiao-Da-Ye賽門譙大爺 via FlickrI have frequently posted in the past about my regular cabbie Mr. G and the iniquitous conditions that cabbies work under in the UAE since private cabs were banned and replaced by the taxi companies. These companies have been treating cabbies effectively like indentured labour, fining them huge amounts and saddling them with all sorts of charges and 'extras' that most people out here expect as part of their conditions of employment.
Gulf News has reported on one group of cabbies who have filed a complaint against their employer, oddly enough going as far as to name the company. The report is doubly surprising given the reaction of the company when GN contacted them for comment.
The drivers are complaining that their salary, a nominal Dhs300, isn't actually paid as they're employed on commission and are made to pay over Dhs3,000 for their visa, Dhs 1,000 for their uniform (must be designer brand stuff) and Dhs 26 a day for 'operational costs'. If they don't make a minimum of Dhs 1,200 a day, they're fined Dhs 200. They're complaining that they have to work 12 hours a day and beyond to keep their heads above water.
Given that our safety is in their hands, 12 hour shifts seems dangerous - and I know that Sharjah cabbie Mr G not unusually works 16 hour shifts, 365 days a year.
The company's response to Gulf News was brilliant.
"They work 12 hours, seven days a week because we consider them partners and not employees," Metro's GM told GN, going on to confirm that drivers must also pay for operational costs, which include insurance, plate registration, car cost, car maintenance and for all needed expenses.
The taxi companies are, apparently, 'working on getting rid of signing the labour contract'. Now there's a solution!.
For a company charged with egregious behaviour, unfair practices and treating its staff appallingly to respond with 'Hell, yes!' is pure genius.
We're re-writing the rulebook of PR by the day, folks... By the day...