Shenzhen sacks striking cab drivers but also makes concessions

The Shenzhen authorities have dismissed 46 of the more than 3,300 suburban taxi drivers who took part in a three day strike in the city at the end of October. However, in a bid to ease tensions, the government also stated that the cost of taxi security deposits would be cut in half.

The Shenzhen Taxi Industry Self-discipline Committee (市出租汽车行业自律委员会) announced that the 46 drivers would be dismissed and barred from seeking new employment in the industry because their actions “disrupted management, damaged the reputation of the industry and adversely affected society and the economy.”

At the same time, the city’s transportation department revealed that the security deposit (安全保证金)levied on suburban taxis would be reduced from 90,000 yuan to 50,000 yuan. The outstanding 40,000 yuan would be refunded by the end of February 2011 at the latest, it said.

The October strike was a protest at the failure of taxi companies and the government to address the problems of suburban drivers, and the city’s inequitable cab fare structure. Shenzhen’s taxis are currently divided into red cabs, which operate in the downtown special economic zone, and green cabs, which ply the suburban factory districts of Bao’an and Longgang.

Flag fall for red cabs is 12 yuan but only six yuan for green cabs. However, the vehicle rent paid by drivers to the taxi companies is almost the same, around 14,500 yuan per month for red cabs and 12,000 yuan for green cabs. Moreover, the local authorities have been profligate in granting new cab licenses, to the point that the number of green cabs has more than doubled in the last year from 1,800 to 3,757 vehicles, severely diluting the market.

On 1 July, the city government announced it was implementing its long-talked about unification policy, which includes equalizing the minimum wage across the city at 1,100 yuan per month. However, green cab drivers complain that no action has yet been taken to unify the city’s taxi market or even reduce the inequalities in the system.

Such was the discontent and anger among the city’s green cab drivers that at least 90 percent of them joined the strike.

The strike came two years almost to the day after a massive taxi strike in Chongqing, which initiated a nationwide wave of strikes in at least 16 different cities. In all cases, the cab drivers had the same complaints as the green cab drivers in Shenzhen; high vehicle rent charges, low flag fall, high fuel costs and competition from unlicensed cabs.
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