Fri, Apr 26, 2019 - Page 3 News List

Protesting Uber drivers promise referendum drive

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Front from left, Platform Driver Alliance leader Li Ming-ta and alliance spokesman Well Lee, together with other alliance members, protest in front of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Cheng Wei-chi, Taipei Times

Uber drivers yesterday vowed to launch a referendum drive if the government implements the Ministry of Transportation and Communications’ (MOTC) amendment to Article 103-1 of Transportation Management Regulations (汽車運輸業管理條例).

“We have collected more than 300,000 signatures supporting Uber, meeting the threshold for proposing a referendum,” Platform Driver Alliance spokesman Well Lee (李威爾) said during a protest outside the ministry’s offices in Taipei yesterday afternoon.

Should the ministry insist on enforcing the amendment and disregard drivers’ livelihoods, the alliance would propose an amendment to the Highway Act (公路法), in which drivers accepting assignments from Internet platforms would be considered as offering a legal, commercial vehicle service, Lee said.

The Democratic Progressive Party would lose a lot of young people’s votes if it only works to secure benefits for certain taxi companies, Lee said.

Under the amendment to Article 103-1, taxi and vehicle rental services would be considered separate businesses, and passengers accessing the latter would have to pay an hourly or daily rate.

Although the ministry did not find Uber’s partnership with vehicle rental businesses illegal, it said that some Uber drivers had been offering taxi services under the guise of vehicle rental services, which is against regulations.

The public has until today to view and comment on the changes.

MOTC Deputy Minister Wang Kwo-tsai (王國材) on Tuesday said that the ministry would compile all opinions it receives about the amendment and respond to each one, adding that the ministry would implement the amendment three months after it is officially announced.

Lee said that the ministry should not make a formal announcement until all relevant parties have reached a consensus on the future of small passenger vehicle transportation businesses.

The ministry should convene a meeting and invite all stakeholders to share their views, including operators of online ride-hailing platforms and their drivers, vehicle rental business operators, taxi drivers, experts and users who depend on online ride-hailing platforms, he said.

“The ministry should immediately tell the public that the partnerships between online ride-hailing platforms and car rental business operators is legal to eliminate conflict between taxi drivers and drivers accepting jobs from online platforms,” Lee said.

The government should also stop taxi companies from launching mud-slinging campaigns against Uber drivers, he said.

The alliance said that the amendment would not benefit taxi drivers, whose vehicle vacancy rate is already 40 percent.

The ministry’s policy asking Uber drivers to become taxi drivers would only benefit taxi companies, it said.

The alliance also questioned the effectiveness of the government’s diversified taxi program, saying it does not think it would provide them with a reliable income, as it is not equipped with advanced technology, such as allowing users to use city landmarks as pickup points.

Legislators have already received complaints from drivers who have joined program, the alliance said.

Department of Railways and Highways specialist Hu Ti-chi (胡迪琦) disagreed, saying that Uber drivers’ demand that the ministry create a new business category just for them is unreasonable.

“They are essentially running the same business as taxi drivers. Why does the ministry have to create a new business category for these drivers just because they want to be exempt from any form of government regulation?” she said, adding that the ministry has offered various ways for them to operate legally.

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