Chongqing cabbies vent fury on strike-breakers

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 November, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 November, 2008, 12:00am

20 vehicles smashed including three police cars

Disgruntled taxi drivers in the southwest city of Chongqing staged a rare strike that turned violent yesterday, as drivers smashed three police cars and several other vehicles of cabbies who refused to participate.

At least 20 cars were damaged, including broken windows, Xinhua reported, but omitted to say whether anyone was injured.

Taxi drivers in the main urban areas of the city cited a wide range of grievances for the action, according to state media and residents.

They included a lack of service stations for natural gas, an increase in illegal taxis and the frequency or high level of fines levied by police. Some drivers were also calling for a rise in the 5 yuan (HK$5.67) basic fare and changes to fees the taxi companies charge their drivers.

Most taxis run on natural gas, which the city encouraged to reduce pollution, but long queues are frequent at service stations. Some allege the police collect fines because of corruption or to meet quotas.

Photos showed scores of taxis parked by the side of the road. The government claimed around 800 of the city's 9,000 taxi drivers had defied the strike and returned to work by early afternoon.

In some cases, drivers had requested government escorts to ensure their safety.

A local journalist said more drivers were expected to return to work out of economic necessity.

The work stoppage started early in the morning.

By noon, more than 100 drivers had gathered in the central Jiangbei district, and some stopped taxis and pulled out the strike-breakers.

Others smashed taxis in the southwestern Shapingba district. Passengers were also pulled out of some taxis.

'All taxi drivers agreed to stop work, and we damaged the taxis of those who didn't keep their word,' Xinhua quoted a driver as saying.

Another said: 'A strike is not what I want, but my taxi will be smashed if I drive.'

The action made transport all but impossible in the mountainous city for those lacking private cars or unwilling to take crowded public transport.

'It's hard to see any taxis today,' a local resident said. 'But many citizens didn't show any sympathy for the taxi drivers. They're big trouble for the city's transport.'

The local government and Communist Party committee have vowed to address the drivers' grievances. Chongqing Municipal Committee publicity department deputy head Zhou Bo , said the government would prevent a 'chain reaction', set up a channel for grievances and crack down on illegal taxis. He also promised an investigation into the price of natural gas.

The city would 'prevent the situation from worsening and pay close attention to the study of the complaints of the taxi industry' among other steps, he said.

The government was meeting with big taxi companies and urging drivers to return to work. Police were also out in force with increased patrols on city streets to restore order.

The stoppage caused many people to be late for work, and others missed flights.

Off the meter

Chongqing taxi drivers have cited a wide range of grievances for their protest

According to the government, the number of drivers who defied the strike and returned to work was about: 800