Rights of taxi drivers arouse concern at unions' congress

In China, over 1 million taxi drivers are working day and night, but their rights to join trade unions or set up their own union has remained a troubling issue for years.

"Taxi drivers are definitely workers and they must have the right to join a union according to the law," said Professor Guan Huai, of the People's University of China, who is also a consultant for the All-China Federation of Trade Unions.

But some people argued that many taxi drivers are self-employed and thus are different from those who are employed by others. These people oppose to admitting taxi drivers into any union.

The dispute has resulted in most taxi drivers being out of the reach of trade unions and many people who have joined the union are actually managers of taxi companies.

"Trade union? It has done nothing for us," said Wang Liansheng, a taxi driver in Beijing.

But things are changing. In some cities, local authorities have tried to put taxi drivers under the umbrella of trade unions. In Xiaogan City, central China's Hubei Province, the municipal federation of trade unions helped set up a special federation for trade unions of taxi drivers in the city's urban districts two years ago.

Gu Shuanglin, chairman of Xiaogan's Federation of Taxi Drivers' Unions, told Xinhua, with pride, that his participation in the congress as one of two delegates from the city has proved the success of his federation.

Gu's federation has held four full-member conferences over the past two years. A series of major resolutions have been made at the meetings regarding the development of local taxi business, he noted.

Now the federation has 900 members, compared to 500 in the beginning. The city has more than 1,000 taxi drivers who drive 679taxis for nine taxi companies.

According to the All-China Federation of Trade Unions, trade unions in some large cities like Wuhan, Lanzhou, Guangzhou and Chengdu cities are planning to absorb local taxi drivers, in an effort to better protect their rights.

People's Daily Online --- http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/