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Striking taxi drivers in central China city getting back to work
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15:28, April 13, 2009

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About one third of taxis in the central China city of Yueyang, Hunan Province, are back on the road Monday, after their drivers went on strike for three days protesting overcharging by taxi firms.

About 500 taxis were back on the road Monday morning, after the city government agreed to intervene with taxi firms to get them to reduce the monthly fees paid by the drivers to taxi companies, said Fu Hongbo, an official in charge of passenger services at the urban management bureau.

In a letter, broadcast non-stop at Yueyang's television and radio stations Sunday, the city government said taxi drivers could suspend paying their monthly fees until new standards were set.

The government also told pricing authorities to "thoroughly investigate the issue, hear the drivers' grievances and readjust the monthly fees".

Dozens of drivers parked their cabs outside an office building of the Yueyang city government Friday, demanding a cut in fees, better services by taxi companies and a crackdown on illegal cabs.

More drivers joined the strike Saturday. Some taxis still in operation were stopped, smashed and their drivers were beaten. Police detained 11 people for allegedly forcing drivers into the strike.

Yueyang has 11 taxi firms operating about 1,600 taxis and employing 3,000 drivers. Under an agreement with the companies, each driver must pay the company about 6,400 yuan (941 U.S. dollars) per month. Compared with illegal cabbies who operated at much lower costs, many taxi drivers complained they made too little.

"Forty-five of our company's 304 taxis are back on the road as of midday," said Hong Pijin, manager of Sanwei Taxi Service, one of the biggest in Yueyang.

He said the management sent 17 teams of workers to convey the government's message to taxi drivers on Sunday in order to get them back to work.

Yet some drivers are still watching the situation. "No, I won't get back on the road. Not until we know for sure the monthly fee has been reduced," said a driver surnamed Hu.

He was echoed by dozens of other drivers who had parked their cabs near Luowang Intersection in the city center Monday morning.

Strikes are rare in China, but taxi strikes were reported in several cities including Chongqing, Sanya and Shantou last year over high rental fees and unlicensed cabs.

Taxi drivers in those cities resumed work after the local authorities promised to reduce rental fees and crack down on illegal cabs, and fees were later reduced in all three cities.


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