After setting up their own cab company earlier this year, a group of 51 taxi drivers in the central city of Xiangtan are stepping up their publicity campaign in a bid to win a formal operating licence in the municipal government’s auction at the end of August.
The drivers set up Xiangtan United Taxi Company after being told by the local government last year that they would lose their private operators licence and have to join a registered cab company in order to continue operating. The drivers refused to join any of the city’s existing companies which, they said, did nothing but bribe the local authorities and exploit drivers through excessive rental fees and taxation.
In an open letter posted on Weibo on 2 August, the drivers said that since its inception in March, Xiangtan United had complied with all government regulations and policies, and fully deserved a full operating licence. A 38-year-old veteran driver using the pseudonym Wang Gang said:
Only cab companies that are staffed by, run by, and operated for drivers can best represent their interests as well as deliver a good service to the public. Unlike the parasite taxi companies, United is 100 percent non-profit and solely owned by 51 shareholding drivers themselves. It also signs formal labour contracts with all the drivers and pays its share of social insurance contributions.
A driver at Xiangtan United Taxi Co. prepares his cab.
Another driver, Chen Chunxiu, revealed the suspected collusion between the six taxi companies in Xiangtan and local transport officials.
We found out that a number of officials in the transportation bureau were given expensive tours to Nanjing in December 2014, and we somehow obtained the pictures taken inside the restaurant where they ate. The transportation bureau trade union president was seen unveiling a dish presented to them in a sedan chair. It is the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen. See below
The local discipline inspection commission claimed that all the officials were spending their own money and ruled there was no misconduct but the drivers at United were not convinced. Chen said the drivers had taken their complaint against the local transportation authority to Beijing, and reserved the right to sue the local authorities if they are denied an operating licence.
The drivers’ social media activism and their push for industry reform has already drawn attention from domestic and international media, with China Central Television and the New York Times reporting their story in November 2014 and April 2015 respectively.