By Bassma Al Jandaly, Senior Reporter www.gulfnews.com
Dubai: A group of taxi drivers has filed a complaint against a transport company for making them work long hours and for docking their salaries and commission to pay for the cost of their visas, labour cards, medical test among others.
The taxi drivers told Gulf News their company, Metro Taxi LLC, had set their salaries at Dh300 as stipulated in their labour contracts. The amount includes all allowances.
“We are paid by commission and we have to make between Dh1,200 and Dh7,500 otherwise we will be fined Dh200,” a taxi driver said.
The drivers said they are forced to work 12 hours a day without days off.
Drivers can earn a maximum of Dh4,200 but most of which they pay back to the company to cover certain expenses.
“We were made to pay Dh3,160 for visa, another Dh3,500 if we are changing visa in the country. We pay for our ticket and also for medical check ups,” a taxi driver said.
The drivers said they are not given annual leave.
“We are given annual leave every two years and we pay for our tickets,” the drivers said.
The drivers said they also pay Dh1,000 for their uniform.
“All these money are deducted from our commission. We also pay for accommodation and for food,” the drivers said.
A driver said he came to the country on a visit visa from his home country to find work here.
“They issued me a work permit and I paid all the costs,” the driver said.
Another driver said the company also deducted Dh26 per day from their commission to cover operational costs.
“They are asking us to pay that and they are telling us if we refuse to sign an agreement to deduct this amount from our commission, we have to sign our resignation,” the driver said.
The drivers said they stopped working and already lodged a complaint before the Ministry of Labour which has just referred the case to the labour court.
The workers said they pay for accidents and vehicle repairs despite the fact that the cars are insured.
“We want to work. We came from far away countries to work here. We left poor families behind,” said the drivers.
“The company management is making us work under miserable conditions. We barely survive here,” the drivers said.
Murraih Omar Ebrahim, general manager of Metro Taxi and Galadari driving school told Gulf News on Tuesday that all taxi companies in the country are making their drivers pay the cost of visas, work permits, labour cards, health insurance, tickets and all other expenses.
“It is a common practice among taxi companies. The salary mentioned in the labour contract signed at the Ministry of Labour is something formal only,” he said.
Ebrahim said the labour ministry had said it is a must to mention in the contract how much salary they are paying for the workers in the labour contract.
“We have to mention Dh300 salary but we do not pay it. We pay commission,” he said.,
He also confirmed that drivers are fined if they fail to hit their income target.
“The low income drivers who earn for us less than Dh7,500 we make them pay a fine of Dh200,” he said.
Ebrahim said they wanted to be independent from the labour ministry.
“We are working on getting rid of signing the labour contract at the Ministry of Labour,” he said.
He said the company considers a taxi driver as a partner hence, he should pay for all expenses relative to his residency, tickets and must not have days off.
“They work 12 hours, seven days a week because we consider them partners and not employees,” he said, He said they must also pay for operational costs, which include insurance, plate registration, car cost, car maintenance and for all needed expenses.
Regulation: No minimum wage in UAE
According to an official from the Ministry of Labour a committee has decided that the salary of taxi drivers is pegged at Dh300.
“The companies usually pay commission,” he said.
The official at the labour ministry said there is no minimum wage for expatriates’ salaries in private sector set by the ministry.
“The employer can pay the salary they want to the workers even if it is Dh50 if both parties agreed on that.”