Taxi Drivers in Eastern China Strike Over Rising Fuel Costs

Thousands of taxi drivers in Hangzhou are striking because of fuel costs. From Reuters:

More than 1,000 taxi drivers in the Chinese tourist city of Hangzhou in eastern Zhejiang province went on strike on Monday to protest about rising gasoline prices and congested roads, state media reported.

The strike marked the latest protest in China’s transportation industry. Truck drivers at a container port in the financial hub of Shanghai staged a strike in May to highlight accelerating inflation.

In early April, China increased retail diesel and gasoline prices by 5 to 5.5 percent to new record highs.

Local police and traffic regulators in Hangzhou were talking with drivers about their complaints, the official Xinhua news agency said, without elaborating.

Many of the Chinese taxi drivers complain that with little pay and high gas prices, they make barely enough money to survive on. From Financial Times:

In Hangzhou, a large proportion of drivers are migrant workers whose high accommodation charges leave them little to live on. “We are just living on pocket money now,” said one. “We can’t earn anything.”

Drivers complain that the price they pay for petrol has not fallen, despite a drop in the global oil price. They also want to be paid more when stuck in the city’s notoriously congested traffic.

Several dozen police arrived to restore order and, according to state media, speak to the drivers about their grievances. But striking drivers continued to stop all passing taxis. The strike appeared to be spontaneous and disorganised, with no clear leaders.

The Hangzhou government late on Monday offered a RMB 1 per trip temporary compensation fee in a bid to defuse tensions, reflecting the government’s tendency to act quickly to contain unrest.

But most strikers last night reacted with disdain to news of the fare increase, saying it was too small to make a difference. Beijing will watch closely to see whether taxi drivers in other Chinese cities will be emboldened to demand higher fares.

Reports say that taxi drivers in Shanghai are also striking and some estimate that there are as much as 4000 taxi drivers are striking. From the West Australian:

In Hangzhou, drivers parked their cars at several locations in the city, a major tourist centre, while others simply stayed on the road and refused to take passengers, state media and taxi company officials said.

Some media estimates put the number of strikers as high as 4,000 drivers. Police declined to comment.

“We know the strike is going on. We told our drivers not to participate,” an official from the Hangzhou Jingwei Taxi Company, who declined to be named, told AFP.

Hangzhou, known for the scenic West Lake, deployed extra police and closed some roads because of the strike, whose start coincided with the morning rush hour.

Calls circulated anonymously on the Internet for the Hangzhou strike to continue for a total of three days.

In Shanghai, drivers from one of the city’s smaller taxi companies, Fuxin, parked along a major road in a western suburb with signs posted in their windows protesting what they claimed was a lack of retirement benefits, local media reported. The company said it was negotiating with the drivers.

August 1, 2011 10:12 AM
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Categories: Economy, Society