Auto, taxi workers plan to go on prolonged protest in Kochi

Uncontrolled operations by online cab companies a threat to livelihood, they say

December 12, 2017 01:14 am | Updated 09:20 am IST

Autorickshaws and taxis stayed off the road on Monday, protesting against the allocation of parking space to online cabs on railway station premises.

Autorickshaws and taxis stayed off the road on Monday, protesting against the allocation of parking space to online cabs on railway station premises.

The already frosty relations between online taxi workers and autorickshaw and taxi workers in the city are likely to turn bitter, with the latter planning to go on a prolonged protest against what they call “uncontrolled operations” by online taxi companies, jeopardising their livelihoods.

The token strike by workers under the aegis of the trade union coordination committee on Monday may just be the beginning of a long-drawn-out agitation, going by the feedback from trade union representatives.

M.B. Syamanthabadran, State president of the CITU-affiliated Kerala State Auto Taxi Workers’ Federation, said the Railways’ move to accommodate online cabbies might sound the death knell for a well-oiled mechanism of pre-paid autorickshaw services at railway stations, rendering the workers jobless. He called upon the Railways to give up the move considering that autorickshaw and taxi workers were already paying it for operating from railway station premises.

“We have also approached the government to rein in online cab companies, which, virtually, have no regulations guiding them, leading to the corporatisation of a vital labour-intensive industry,” Mr. Syamanthabadran said.

K.S. Anilkumar, general secretary of the BMS-affiliated Ermakulam Autorickshaw Thozhilali Sangam, said the Railways’ move to allot space to online cabs would disturb the smooth running of the pre-paid autorickshaw system at stations. “The multinational online cabs are adopting a divisive mechanism to split workers by wooing them with sops initially only to have it their way once they have control over the turf. We are not against the workers operating for online companies but against their monopolistic tendencies,” he said.

Joy Joseph, State general secretary of the AITUC-affiliated Kerala State Private Motor Thozhilali Federation, called for a ban on the “unregulated” online taxi services as they threatened to leave the conventional autorickshaw and taxi services defunct.

Ali Akbar, State vice-president of the Confederation of Motor Transport Workers, said it was high time the State government stepped in to find a permanent solution to problems posed by the advent of online cab companies. He added that at a time when there was a need for revisiting autorickshaw and taxi fares in keeping with the hike in prices of fuel and spare parts, online taxi companies facilitating services at half the existing fare by compensating operators would only lead to monopolisation of the sector.

Meanwhile, the traffic police said the present imbroglio over the allocation of parking space to online cabs left no room for their intervention as there was nothing illegal in the move. Police intervention is warranted only when law and order issues are involved, said a senior police officer.

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