All ye drivers in Singapore, heads' up — there's a new organisation in town that hopes to defend your interests.
The National Private Hire Vehicles Association (NPHVA) was formally registered on May 3, and was introduced on Wednesday with the help of the National Trades Union Congress.
It's currently headed up by a pro-tempore (unofficial, temporary) committee of 15 drivers from Uber, Grab, private limousine companies and Combi bus companies, and will accept any drivers from those categories — basically, if you make money ferrying passengers from one place to another and don't drive a taxi or a full-sized bus or a train, you can join this group.
Why's it called an association and not a union?
The name does count in these here parts — a "union" is applicable where the people being represented are directly employed by the companies that pay them to work. That's why unions don't fly in the case of companies like Uber and Grab, who don't exactly hire drivers to ply the roads for passengers.
It's the same for taxi drivers, too, actually — ComfortDelGro, SMRT and Trans-Cab are but conduits who rent vehicles to the drivers, who are self-employed. Their "union", therefore, is called the National Taxi Association.
The one for private-hire vehicle drivers was started by a group of drivers who approached the NTUC for help in November last year. They now hope to represent the interests of three main groups of drivers to begin with:
- Grab and Uber drivers;
- Limousine drivers; and
- Combi Bus drivers.
These add up to between 6,000 and 8,000 drivers working full-time, although they hope to also represent the needs of part-time drivers — of whom there are many as well.
So, do drivers really need anyone to represent their interests?
The folks running the association, some of whom are from the NTUC's Freelancers and Self-Employed unit, say they've so far reached out to at least 150 drivers from all three groups through ground-level driver networks.
The majority, they note, have expressed interest, with a good number (according to Lianhe Zaobao, 50) already submitting applications to join the newly-minted association.
The unit's assistant director, Mohamad Randy, tells us he and his colleagues have been meeting with groups of three to four drivers, twice or three times each week, to understand better their concerns and to tell them about the union.
"It started out with them wanting things to be fairer for them," he said. "When they heard about the regulations, they were concerned about the impact of the regulations on them and wanted to meet with the ministry (of transport) to share their input, so they came to us for help."
Mohamad Randy also tells us the association has contacted Grab and Uber to establish a relationship so far, and will work to contact other limousine and combi bus companies, as well as other players like car rental companies, in order to best-represent their drivers' interests.
And what's in it for drivers who join now?
Standard NTUC benefits like free insurance, link points, bursaries (if they meet the financial criteria) and skills upgrading, for one, promises S. Thiagarajan, director of strategy for the NTUC Freelancers and Self-Employed unit.
He holds off assuring drivers of anything else, but it looks like they are aiming to help represent private-hire car drivers' interests in speaking to the app companies and other vehicle rental firms in the future.
If you're interested to sign yourself up to join the NPHVA, you'll need to sign up for a regular NTUC membership using this form, and also call 6213 8008 (Mon - Fri 9.00am to 6.00pm and Sat 9.00am to 1.00pm) or contact them here to find out how to indicate your interest to be placed there.
It remains to be seen how effective this association will be, but we'll see if we hear from them soon. Meanwhile, we hope they'll also be able to help member drivers with issues that NTA general secretary Ang Hin Kee pointed out, like:
- Ensuring that price cuts, discounts and fare promotions come not from the drivers but from the company's coffers; and
- Mediating between driver and company in the event a driver's ratings go below the threshold, resulting in his dismissal.
Top image: screenshot from this video