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    May 12, 2016

    Private hire drivers team up to protect their interest

    DRIVERS of private hire vehicles such as limousines, cars and combi-buses now have an association to represent them in discussions with companies such as Uber and Grab, and the Government.

    The National Private Hire Vehicles Association was officially registered last Tuesday, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) said yesterday.

    NTUC estimates there are around 6,000 to 8,000 full-time drivers of such vehicles here and other part-time drivers who could also join.

    NTUC's Freelancers and Self-Employed Unit is supporting the association in its formation, after a group of drivers approached NTUC asking for help to set it up.

    "With the discussion on licensing and regulation, drivers wanted to be in a position to give their views and feedback," said the unit's director for strategy S. Thiagarajan.

    Regulations for the industry were announced in Parliament last month.

    He added that there is an increasing need to ensure the growing pool of private hire drivers are cared for, treated fairly and can advance with the market needs.

    Besides gaining a stronger voice, those who join the association will also become members of the labour movement and tap on benefits such as free insurance, skills training support and bursaries for children.

    The priority now is to grow the association's membership, said Mr Thiagarajan, adding that the association plans to hold regular meetings with the Land Transport Authority.

    NTUC and the association have also been in talks with booking app companies Grab and Uber.

    Grab Singapore head Lim Kell Jay said the new association is a step towards having private hire vehicles recognised as a valid transport option here.

    "As long as it's something that benefits our drivers, we are supportive of it," he added.

    Uber said it looks forward to continuing to work with partners and the Government to get feedback.

    A 15-member committee has been formed to drive recruitment efforts for the association. Formal committee elections will take place when there are more members.

    Its secretary, Shawn Ng, 34, a limousine driver and managing partner of Riz and Partners Transportation Services, hopes the association can push for the reduction of fines and rental costs that drivers face.

    Fines for missed customers can be five times the original fare, he noted, while rentals average around $3,000 to $4,500 a month.

    Additional reporting by Adrian Lim