Frustrated with a decline in their take-home pay, several Mowasalat cab drivers at the airport staged a limited two-day strike by refusing to show up to work this week, employees told Doha News.
It’s not clear how many men took part in the job action. Other airport employees working around the taxi area at the airport today told Doha News that they had not noticed anything amiss during yesterday’s morning shift, and the drivers themselves said everyone had returned to work by today.
Over the last two weeks, several airport cab operators have told Doha News that they were promised a raise that has not materialized.
They said they were told they’d receive a salary of QR3,000 a month – up from an effective monthly pay of QR1,200 – to compensate for lost revenue from the introduction of new fare meters.
While billed as a way to prevent drivers to overcharge customers, the new devices are also equipped with GPS that enables better tracking of cars.
This has had a significant impact on airport taxi drivers, who are only allowed to pick up fares from Hamad International.
Previously, many operators would pick up additional passengers in Doha for short trips to supplement their salaries before returning to the airport. With the new meters, drivers say they face sanctions if they don’t head straight back.
Impact on pay
Since the installation of the meters, one driver who spoke to Doha News said he’s effectively had his take-home pay cut in half.
The man, who has been in Qatar for four years and asked not to have his name or nationality published for fear of reprisals, said Mowasalat airport drivers are left with a monthly salary of QR1,200 after deductions for accommodations, water and electricity.
The airport driver said he would previously be able to make an additional QR50 a day from “extra” fares, which works out to roughly an additional QR1,200 a month.
He said airport drivers can theoretically earn more if they bring in a great deal of revenue under a commission system, but added that this rarely happens.
“It’s not possible at the airport because we’re not busy. We spend most of our time sitting there,” he said, explaining that he typically picks up two or three fares over the course of an 11-hour shift.
“Drivers just want a good salary.”
Instead of receiving a raise, some taxi operators say they are actually taking home less pay after being accused of an increasing number of traffic violations that can add up to hundreds of riyals each month.
Several cab drivers, including the one who spoke to Doha News today as well as another who was working in early January, have said drivers are facing more fines for allegedly breaking traffic rules or returning cars with scratches or dents.
He said there is no way to contest the penalties because drivers are not told of the location, date or nature of the offense, leaving them wondering if it was a parking infraction, moving violation or damage to the vehicle.
When asked why other motorists should have sympathy for taxi operators who break the rules, the driver said a lack of rest, combined with irate passengers who pressure drivers to go faster, mean transgressions are bound to occur.
“Taxi drivers are different…there’s too much tension.”
He added he would also like to see some evidence or documentation to support the accusations.
Ultimately, the man said he would like to return home. However, he admitted that he is prevented from leaving the country until he pays off the thousands of riyals in fines he has racked up. By his calculations, he said it may take until 2020 for him to square up with his employer.
Doha News contacted a Mowasalat spokesperson last week to inquire about driver payment issues, but did not receive any response to a submitted list of questions.