Taxi union wants to challenge law

A union representing taxi drivers wants to challenge the transport­ law in court for a number­ of reasons.

12 September 2018 | Transport

The Namibia Transport and Taxi Union (NTTU) will make a down payment to engage lawyers within the next two weeks to tackle a number of issues, including lack of regulations protecting taxi drivers and a transportation law they describe as unconstitutional and discriminating against taxi drivers.

Union boss Werner Januarie says he has withdrawn N$2 000 this week and begun to scout around for lawyers willing to challenge what he deems are unconstitutional clauses in the Road Traffic and Transport Act, including phrasing that includes terms such as “servant” within the permit regulations.

Januarie says another N$5 500 has been deposited into the NTTU account to pay for legal advice.

“The biggest priority right now is to make sure that the 1977 Act is thrown out so that we can come up with new regulations in order to set the industry at higher standards. I think this will solve all the problems we face currently,” he says.

Nevertheless, the union accepts that taking on a legal battle will be costly. To raise funds, it has compiled a comprehensive taxi fare pricelist reflecting the recent 20% increase, which includes details on the cost of transporting extra loads.

The price list is being sold for N$95. According to Januarie about 100 drivers have bought it so far.

He says it will help to avoid conflict over fares and is in line with regulations stipulating that taxi drivers need to have a list handy at all times.

Januarie says if taxi drivers are serious about changing their lot, and agree to assist the union in their mission to take their issues to court, they all need to chip in.

“Those not on the buyer's register, we will deal with them. The people who have been registered as having bought the list, they will receive additional benefits from the union.”

As part of the legal battle, one or more taxi drivers with outstanding traffic fines will be selected. Their fines will be paid by the union in an effort to demonstrate the challenges faced by the sector.

Januarie says one of their grievances is the fact that taxi drivers are fined, and not the taxi owners.

He says the law and permit conditions refer to the “holders of permits”, who are the owners of the taxis.

“What we want to do with the legal case is to have the traffic fines shifted from the driver and instead issued to the owners. The drivers will no longer be responsible for traffic fines, and the owners can deal with those.”

He adds that the law and permit conditions refer to drivers as “servants”, instead of employees.

“The court must find that to be unlawful. There is no law regulating servants. Drivers must be regarded and declared as employees.”

He says servants are beholden to, and must obey, a master. “It's a master-and-servant relationship. The bosses can do whatever they please.”

Januarie believes changing the way taxi drivers are legally described would help when negotiating better conditions of employment for taxi drivers.

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