Taxi drivers in the northeast city of Mudanjiang, Heilongjiang Province, struck and staged sit-ins outside Communist Party and government offices, whilst in the southeast city of Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, a militant strike by cabbies got immediate results.
The strike in the north began on the 23rd of July over proposals to limit the length of operating rights, and continued at least until the 30th. Zhao Shiyuan, secretary general of Mudanjiang City Government, said the city government had to mobilize taxi drivers from neighboring cities to offer taxi services.
China shares border with Russia via Mudanjiang, a tourist city in Heilongjiang Province and more than 300 kilometers away from Harbin, the provincial capital. Mudanjiang City has 2.8 million permanent residents and has 2,705 taxis in service, most of which are privately run, said Zhao.
"Misinterpretation by the part of cabbies is the cause of the strike," claimed Zhao, who added the draft document was open to discussions and could be improved based on opinions aired by taxi drivers. Mayor Zhang Jingchuan has held dialogues with some of the drivers with the hope of bringing the drivers back to work.
Militant strike in the south
In the southeast, the strike was shorter, lasting only one day. More than 2 000 drivers joined the strike – about two thirds of the city’s cabs, and strikebreakers were attacked or had their windows smashed. The government immediately agreed to meet with taxi drivers and address their demands, one spokesman calling them “reasonable”.
According to police, some scab taxis were lured to suburban areas and then attacked. 2 000 police patrolled the streets, but only twelve people were arrested, of which eight were charged with attacking taxis or handing out leaflets.
Drivers, over 70 percent of whom are from the relatively poorer provinces of Anhui, Hubei, and Jiangsu, usually rent their cabs from private owners and agents. They were striking due to high rent costs, lack of fuel subsidy and the high level of other maintenance costs, which left many with only just enough money for food at the end of each day. They said they only earn up to 3,000 yuan or 440 U.S. dollars a month even if they work 12 hour days.
“With the hiking of gas prices and high rental fees, we’re just able to make ends meet if we're lucky; if not, we would go hungry,” a driver said.
Whether the government's six measures that appear to address the strikers’ main concerns will be implemented or were simply announced to end the strike, remains to be seen. Fees for waiting at the airport were immediately abolished.
The Voice of Taxi Drivers
The strike was apparently organised by the handing out of leaflets headed “The Voice of Taxi Drivers” at the airport, petrol stations and restaurants. Government officials have therefore blamed the strike on a small group “inciting” the strike.
This appears to be an attempt to go for a “middle way” in dealing with taxi strikes, both conceding to demands, or at least appearing to, and arresting those considered responsible.