The Congress of South African Trade Unions is alarmed by the decision taken by the various taxi associations to implement a 172% fare increases in the province of Gauteng following the failure by government to honour the commitment made to them over the lockdown relief fund. Similar exorbitant fare increases have been reported by workers in the Western Cape and other provinces. While we understand and sympathise with the taxi operators, the decision to increase taxi fares will hurt people who have no dog in this hunt, workers.
We call on all parties to try harder to resolve this impasse and find an amicable solution that will not punish the workers and the poor. There will be no winners if these exorbitant and unaffordable increases are implemented. Only 30% of households in South Africa own a car with the other 70% depending on the public transport system, and already workers are spending about 20% of their meagre incomes on transport every month.
We understand that the taxi industry has suffered serious neglect from the government over the years despite it being a big contributor to the economy.
COSATU continues to call, for an integrated, safe, reliable, and affordable public transport system for the country. The attainment of this requires investment in the transport infrastructure. The apartheid legacy and its spatial development, in particular, left the majority of the working people and their families without good public transport system.
We still argue that the government’s decision to opt for market solutions to public transport problems in the country was a big mistake. The establishment of the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL) within the Department of Transport and the subsequent expansion of the road tolling system has made things worse. We still insist that e-tolls should be abolished and Sanral should be co-opted back to the Department of Transport.
Government needs to help the taxi industry during this lockdown period because we expect them to comply with the protocols and regulations that protect passengers from Covid-19 infection. But also, the government needs to prioritise regulation and should use this opportunity to properly subsidise and regulate the industry.
Taxi drivers should have been part of the UIF TERS scheme and they should be getting money from the fund during this lockdown period and the fact that their employers do not pay the minimum wage and do not contribute to the fund is a problem.
It is critical that the taxi industry be formalised and becomes compliant with all laws of the Republic. These include ensuring that taxi owners pay UIF and Coida. Taxi drivers, guards and queue marshals must be paid the minimum wage, and be afforded all the labour rights workers are entitled to by law like paid leave, a 48-hour working week etc.
The taxi industry is right in calling for government to subsidise this industry as it does for busses and trains. This is more pertinent as most workers use taxis to get to work. However, it cannot be a blank cheque; in exchange we expect the industry to cease being a sector better known for lawlessness and hooliganism.
The driving behaviour of many taxi drivers is also unacceptable. Something drastic needs to be done to improve the safety of the taxi industry and ensure that drivers refrain from the habit of breaking the rules of the road. Taxi fares also fluctuate with the price of fuel and they need to be properly regulated.
It is also troubling that the industry has one of the highest rates of sexual harassment reported from taxi drivers as well as high rates of traffic crimes committed.
The Federation will be asking for a meeting with the Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula and other stakeholders to help intervene and find a workable and sustainable solution that will ensure that workers are not victimised in the process.
Lastly, COSATU remains concerned about the lack of health and safety plans for most taxi ranks. Municipalities must ensure that such plans are put in place and enforced. We must not put the safety of workers and commuters at risk because of the laziness of some municipalities.
Issued by COSATU
Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)
Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794