Chongqing cab strike

On November 3rd, in Chongqing, China’s fourth largest city, 9,000 cab drivers stopped working over the huge fees that they had to pay to taxi companies, endless queuing for fuel, the extortionate sums that the municipal police were fining them and unfair competition from unlicensed cabs.

The Guangzhou taxi drivers wrote later in a November 30th leaflet that they circulated before marching in the streets in their turn on December 1st: “(...) The municipal government and the Transport Authorities have failed to control the situation and improve our working conditions. The fees charged by taxi companies are too high, the burden is unbearable. We are restricted by excessive regulations that stifle us and that; if we fail to comply with them, simply lead to suspension of our licence.”

The Chongqing cab strike lasted two days, some twenty strike-breakers’ cabs were disabled as well as three police vehicles. Most taxi companies are private and established themselves during the ‘90s. They exploit drivers to the point that a driver has to pay the company three fourth of his gains in fees for cab hire and various charges. Chongqing vice mayor explains: “This is probably the most profitable trade in the world,” as every month, taxi companies earn about 40,000 Yuan (€4,000, US$5,827) for each taxi.

What is special with this strike is that negotiations took place directly with the delegates of the drivers, were broadcast live on local television station and resulted in a promise to meet the demands. On the opposite of the Guizhou provincial government that insulted the cab drivers and forbade their strike.

Keeping social stability in a situation where firms scale down their activity or close their doors has become a crucial issue, so much so that Economic Observer reports that the central government gave a one week long training programme to grassroots officials much of which was devoted to social unrest, and especially to dialogue instead of “criminalisation” of strikers. Besides, it should be remarked that all the official medias gave uncensored coverage to the strike as well as to the others that took place the following days in other cities. This strike will have once more shown the place and function of the ACFTU (All China Federation of Trade Unions) whose sole known reaction was to send a note to all the taxi companies, ten days after the Chongqing strike started, urging them to establish trade unions in their firms, insisting that those trade union sections could avoid strikes.

On that point, Southern Metropolis Daily asks: “Even if unions are established in taxi companies, are they not going to be controlled by local authorities and employers and ignore drivers’ interests?” And Asia Times recalls that in 2005, the Chongqing ACFTU turned down a request from drivers to establish a union with the excuse that they should ask permission from their taxi companies. At the time, Yang Xiaoming, the drivers’ delegate was dismissed from his job because of petitioning in defence of drivers’ rights.

From: China Tribune (France)