New group to represent private-hire drivers

Mr Shawn Ng, pro-tem committee secretary of the National Private Hire Vehicles Association, said the committee has met the LTA to discuss training under the new licensing framework, which is expected to kick in by the first half of next year.
Mr Shawn Ng, pro-tem committee secretary of the National Private Hire Vehicles Association, said the committee has met the LTA to discuss training under the new licensing framework, which is expected to kick in by the first half of next year.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

Association formed with help from NTUC will allow stronger voice in talks, more benefits

Drivers of private-hire vehicles such as limousines, cars and minibuses 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 registered on May 3, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) said yesterday.

NTUC estimates that there are 6,000 to 8,000 full-time drivers of such vehicles here, and other part-time drivers who could also join the association. Its 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, Mr S. Thiagarajan, who added that there is an increasing need to ensure the growing pool of private-hire drivers is cared for and fairly treated.

Regulations for the industry were announced in Parliament last month. These include getting drivers to take a vocational licence course and undergo medical tests, as well as background screenings

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

The priority now is to grow the association's membership, said Mr Thiagarajan. He added that the association plans to hold regular meetings with the Land Transport Authority (LTA). NTUC and the association have also been in talks with taxi-booking app companies Grab and Uber, and have a "good relationship" with them.

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 is something that benefits our drivers, we are supportive of it," he said.

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

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, Mr Shawn Ng, 34, a limousine driver and managing partner of Riz and Partners Transportation Services, said the committee has met the LTA to discuss training under the new licensing framework, which is expected to kick in by the first half of next year.

One issue he hopes the association can champion is reducing the fines and rental costs drivers face.

"Most of the time, when drivers give feedback to firms like rental companies Uber and Grab, the companies may not be responsive," he said. "We are trying to see how we can work with them to ensure a win-win situation."

•Additional reporting by Adrian Lim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 12, 2016, with the headline 'New group to represent private-hire drivers'. Print Edition | Subscribe