SINGAPORE: With the pool of private hire drivers growing rapidly since Uber and Grab entered the market some two years ago, the labour movement announced on Wednesday (May 11) an association to champion and protect their interests.
The National Private Hire Vehicles Association seeks to help these drivers address common concerns such as safeguarding their livelihoods, workplace protection, professionalism and welfare, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) said.
This will include drivers under industry players like Uber and Grab, as well as those who provide traditional private limousine and other chauffeured services.
There are currently about 6,000 to 8,000 full-time private hire drivers in Singapore, according to NTUC. They declined to disclose how many had joined the association so far.
Private limousine driver Shawn Ng, the secretary of the Pro-tem Committee noted that some drivers have to pay hefty penalties of up to S$200 for being late. "Every single fine or increase of expenses is equal to their income everyday," he said.
NTUC said the idea for the association came from a group of like-minded private hire drivers who approached the union to form an association in November 2015.
The association was subsequently registered by the NTUC Freelancers and Self-Employed Unit, together with a temporary committee whose members represent different groups of drivers in the industry.
NTUC's director of strategy for the Freelancers and Self-Employed Unit S Thiagarajan said that as the private hire market continues to expand and transform to meet the growing demands of commuters, the labour movement recognises an increasing need to ensure the growing pool of drivers are "duly cared for, fairly treated and can continue to grow with the market needs".
"They want to have their say in shaping the policy. They had concerns about what will be the regimen, what will be the eligibility criteria, what will be the kind of training that will be required for them," he said.
He added: "We are hoping to have a regular platform established with LTA so that we meet them every few months so that the drivers can bring forward their concerns to the authorities."
Moving forward, the first key step will be to grow the association so its voice can be a strong and representative one, NTUC said, adding that it will provide support to encourage more private hire drivers to join the association.
Grab Singapore said the formation of the association will support the long-term sustainability of the industry. It said that even as it's exploring ways for collaboration with the new initiative, it will continue to care for its drivers through measures such as free Grab Personal Accident Insurance and fuel discounts.
Uber meantime said it will continue to have dialogues with its partners and the Government, to get feedback to improve its service.