Taxi drivers and officials at stalemate over new work rule

08:54, January 13, 2011      

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Local authorities in Zhengzhou, capital of Central China's Henan province, have denied media reports that they dispatched thousands of police officers to break a strike by the city's taxi drivers.

The drivers had staged a two-day strike to protest against a new government policy that requires them to work seven days a week, Beijing News reported on Wednesday.

Nearly half of 10,607 licensed taxi drivers took part in the strike, which began on Monday, by refusing to take passengers, the report said.

Several taxi drivers told China Daily that the strike ended on Wednesday.

Li Guiling, deputy director of the publicity department of the city's Party committee, denied that the authorities sent out police officers to monitor the striking drivers in a telephone interview with China Daily but refused to give more details.

The city government introduced a regulation on Jan 1 stipulating that local taxi drivers operate seven days a week. This rule overthrew an earlier regulation that taxi drivers could have one day off a week, thus grounding more than 1,500 taxis a day.

The authorities had expected the controversial move would ensure there were more taxis on the city's streets to ease commuters' difficulties in finding taxis.

However, many local taxi drivers argued that the move would not solve the problems primarily because there would be more taxis on the road than were needed.

Tang Jie, president of the labor union of the city's urban public transport department, told China National Radio (CNR) that the new regulation was intended to increase the supply of taxis to meet the needs of the city's rapidly expanding population.

Government officials, including the city's Public Security Bureau Director Huang Baowei and Vice-Major Zhang Jianhui, discussed the regulation with tens of taxi drivers' representatives on Saturday, an unidentified official told Beijing News, adding that the main point debated was whether the regulation should be abolished.

The next day the government made the decision to send police officers, with transport department workers, to ensure taxi drivers were working, the official said.

Many residents and drivers had complained that the policymakers ignored the fact that more taxis on the streets would worsen traffic conditions.

"It's impossible to move with so many cars on the streets," a taxi driver surnamed Li told Beijing News.

"It just creates more traffic congestion," Li said. "Now it takes me an hour to drive a passenger to a destination which usually takes 15 minutes."

Chen Hongbo, assistant researcher at the department of urban development and environment studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said a set of supporting measures should be introduced as well as increasing the number of taxis, Beijing News reported.

The government should think about setting up more gasoline stations and parking sites to make taxi services more efficient, Chen added.

By He Dan and Zhang Leilong, China Daily

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