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HOME  > Past issues  > 2007 October 17 - 23  > Amid deregulations, taxi fares are rising
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2007 October 17 - 23 [LABOR]

Amid deregulations, taxi fares are rising

October 17 & 18, 2007
The All Japan Federation of Automobile Transport Workers’ Unions (Jiko-soren) held its annual convention on October 17 and 18 in Tokyo.

The union stressed the importance of blocking taxi companies’ arbitrary increases in the number of taxis, which became possible due to government deregulations and which has given rise to excessive competition. It called for strengthening its struggles to improve taxi drivers’ working conditions in order to enhance safety and improve services.

“Deregulations that the government has promoted in the taxi industry have obviously resulted in failure,” stated the union policy adopted in the convention.

Due to the severe fare-cutting competition in the taxi industry, drivers’ wages have been kept at less than 800 yen an hour in 19 prefectures. In Nagasaki and Aomori prefectures, drivers receive less than the minimum wage. They are thus compelled to work longer hours and the number of accidents involving taxis has remained as high as 24,000 cases per year.

The government has long claimed that deregulations will bring about better services and less expensive fares. On the contrary, deregulations have undermined safety and brought about fare increases.

The Transportation Ministry has recently approved increases in taxi fares in many areas across the country on the grounds of raising wages of taxi drivers who are struggling under harsh working conditions.

In Oita Prefecture, the initial taxi fare was raised from 560 yen to 620 yen in April.

“After the taxi fare was raised, drivers’ monthly wages have risen by 10,000 to 20,000 yen. The increase in taxi fare is somewhat improving drivers’ miserable working conditions,” said the union’s Oita regional organization secretary general. The average annual income of taxi drivers in Oita was 2.6 million yen last year.

However, an increase in the taxi fare has not necessarily resulted in wage increases because taxi companies often forcibly reduce the percentage of the fare that drivers receive as wages.

In the past year, the union has repeatedly made representations to the Transport Ministry demanding that the government instruct taxi companies to improve drivers’ working conditions. The ministry initially turned its back on the union demands. However, amid the strong criticism by taxi drivers and the public opinion, the ministry changed its position and issued in March an instruction for improvement in working conditions.

Calling for making use of the fare rise to secure the betterment of working conditions, the union’s Tokyo metropolitan regional organization in September concluded an agreement with an organization made up of most of the taxi companies in Tokyo for the first time since the union was founded in 1978. This shows the increased cooperation between taxi companies and drivers that have been severely suffered from the deregulations.

A handful of taxi companies, however, have not yet given up competing excessively with other companies. Nihon Kotsu Co. Ltd., one of the four largest taxi companies in Tokyo, has increased its taxis by 142 units this year.

The union calls for reduction in the number of taxis so that it will match the demand. It also calls on the government to drastically review its deregulation policies. - Akahata, October 17 & 18, 2007
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