Taxi drivers threaten to jam traffic

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Taxi drivers and owners exchanged sharp words at a meeting at Durbans Botha Gardens last week. Picture: Sibusiso Ndlovu

Durban - A taxi drivers’ organisation that claims to have 1 000 members in Durban has threatened to bring the city to a standstill unless taxi owners meet them to discuss their grievances.

The SA Taxi Workers Organisation treasurer, Clement Doncabe, yesterday confirmed they had delivered an ultimatum and a request for a meeting to the SA National Taxi Council at the weekend.

The drivers were demanding permanent jobs, that their outstanding fines be cancelled and the killing of their members ends, said Doncabe.

“We can no longer have a situation where drivers are exploited and subjected to unfair dismissal… Should they fail to address these concerns, we will embark on a go-slow or, alternatively, bring the city to a standstill. We have met with Santaco representatives and given them an ultimatum of two weeks to meet with us,” he said.

Doncabe said the drivers were considering industrial action after they had exhausted other avenues, including approaching the department of labour and the Council for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration in an effort to improve their working conditions.

The drivers met at Botha Gardens, near the CBD, last week, where they aired their grievances.

Tempers flared and insults were traded when taxi owners – some of whom were carrying firearms – threatened drivers and suggested that those who were unhappy should quit, saying there were plenty of others who would do their jobs.

The drivers had drafted a memorandum demanding the following:

 

l Permanent employment;

l An end to the killing of taxi drivers on duty;

l That taxi owners end their unfair dismissals, threats and harassment of drivers;

l Cancellation of fines and warrants of arrest issued in the name of drivers who had been dismissed or resigned long before the road offence was committed.

Talks

You Khaliva, an owners’ representative of the Region Durban Central owners, said they were not against drivers’ rights, but talks were needed.

Bafana Mhlongo, an official with KZN Transport Alliance, said he was not aware of the demands, but would consider these once they had received them from the umbrella body, Santaco.

 

“During apartheid, the taxi industry started as an informal structure and was not regulated. We were hoping that the new dispensation would subsidise the industry for better work conditions,” he said.

“We have held several marches asking the government for a subsidy, but nothing has happened so far. It would be impossible to permanently employ drivers without a proper financial structure from the government. We cannot even afford to pay the workman’s compensation and unemployment insurance fund.”

 

Chief economist of Efficient Group, Dawie Roodt, said he doubted taxi owners would agree to their drivers’ demands.

“It is cumbersome to employ someone. This could result in more strikes. The finance minister failed to persuade the taxi industry to pay tax and regulate its operation.

“The industry contributes a lot to the country’s wealth; whenever there is a strike the economy suffers because the workforce cannot report to work,” said Roodt.

 

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