State transportation operator Mowasalat has said it is reviewing the current payment system for Karwa taxi drivers. The move is part of a series of reforms the company has been making following numerous complaints from Qatar residents about rude behavior and poor service.
It is hoped that a new system would herald a long-awaited increase in salary for the thousands of men currently driving the sea-green vehicles. Speaking to Doha News, a Mowasalat spokesperson said:
“We are making changes to the system. We want to give a good service and to have a good system. We want to make our service perfect.”
He did not provide any details, only saying that a new payment system is currently being considered by senior management.
Mowasalat has two different structures when it comes to paying its Karwa drivers. Some employees get a monthly salary of QR1,200. But many others work on commission and must pay Mowasalat more than QR2oo a day to rent the cars they drive.
Drivers have said the latter scheme makes it difficult to eke out a living, which is why some pretend their meter isn’t working and set higher set fares as they scramble to at least cover their daily hiring costs.
Increasing congestion on Doha’s roads has also prompted some drivers to refuse fares that they know would take them on busy routes where they might get stuck in traffic, particularly during during rush hour and weekend evenings.
Meanwhile, drivers have said they fear explaining and defending themselves about charging higher prices, because complaints about their working conditions could get them deported.
Speaking to Doha News previously, an Indian taxi driver who has been with Mowasalat for eight years said:
“Drivers feel bad for what they are doing to passengers – we know it’s wrong but we are left with no other choice. We’re trapped, mistreated and misrepresented. Our management has forced us to do this.”
Earlier this year, an unspecified number of drivers for Karwa taxi franchise Al Million refused to work in protest of the daily fees they must pay their employer.
Mindful of the ongoing complaints from both drivers and passengers, Mowasalat has started to make reforms to the existing system.
In August, it said it had begun installing new tamper-proof meter systems in cabs, which would send alerts to the company if a driver tried to alter the meter.
And last month, Mowasalat announced that it was setting up a unified call center, which would process bookings for all 4,000 of the taxis currently operating under the Karwa brand.
In addition to Mowasalat’s own 1,200 taxis, it would also include those operated by the four private franchisees – Ibn Ajayan, Al Million, Profit Group’s Cars Taxis, Capital Taxis and Al Ijarah.
The single booking system would mean that all cars will be fitted with GPS to track their location, and customers would be sent the nearest available car.
At the time of the announcement, the General Manager of Cars Taxis told Doha News that the new system would improve efficiency for the companies, as drivers would have to spend less time touring the city and touting for business. Ajith Stephen said:
“This new system is good news for everyone. It is great for the customers – they will get a taxi quicker – and it is great for us.
“Currently, our drivers can use up half their kilometers driving around looking for customers. Now this will be reduced, as they will be called and told to go to the nearest customer. They will become more efficient.