A Rough Ride for Drivers of Online Taxi Services
KOCHI: Though more and more commuters are now switching over to online cabs from traditional taxis, it seems the plight of the drivers of these vehicles is pathetic. While on one hand, they are pleading for help against physical attacks and abuses, on the other, they are on the warpath seeking better wages.
As many as 36 cases have been registered for atrocities against online taxi drivers in the city, with majority of them being lodged at Nedumbassery Police Station. However, places like South Railway Station, North Railway Station, Edappally and Willingdon Island are still ‘sensitive’ areas, according to the drivers.
With the attacks, threats and causing damage to vehicles continuing, the All-Kerala Online Taxi Drivers’ Union (AKOTDU) is all set to file a petition before the Kerala High Court, seeking justice under the fundamental right - ‘right to livelihood’. AKOTDU president T R S Kumar said that the petition would be filed on Wednesday or Thursday.
The union took the decision after many of its drivers were attacked in the past few months by drivers of traditional taxi services.
Drivers of Uber, Ola and other online taxi services had formed the union to counter the attacks by private cab drivers and tour operators. Mobile app-bases taxi services are increasingly becoming the choice for many owing to their lower fares compared to autorickshaws and other taxi services, along with hassle-free booking. This has put the traditional taxi services at a disadvantage and led to clashes between the drivers of both services at many areas in the city.
Many customers of online taxis too have voiced their objections to the actions of traditional taxi unions and have been quick to call it ‘militant trade unionism’ in the state. But, the trade unions allege that the online taxi services are illegal and do not follow the stipulations of the Motor Vehicles Act.
“We have not posed any threat to the livelihood of around 10,000 local taxi drivers. In fact, the changing trends have forced us to take up this job in order to earn a livelihood. We are not violating any law, but some forces are denying our fundamental right to earn our living,” said Kumar. He added that they were seeking the support of the public against the ‘militant trade unionism’ and that their issue was genuine.
Amidst the attacks and abuses, the online drivers are on the warpath seeking better wages. They had withdrawn a three-day offline strike called from March 4 as Regional Joint Labour Commissioner has convened a meeting to discuss the issue. Uber has agreed to attend a meeting called by the Regional Joint Labour Commissioner on Wednesday, to resolve disputes with the online taxi drivers’ union. The management had initially refused to hold talks with the union over the wages, stating that the drivers functioned on commission basis and were not its employees. Another online cab service company, Ola, had agreed to accept the demands of the drivers.
“The further course of agitation will be based on the decisions in the meeting with Labour Commissioner on Wednesday,” said Kumar.