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Cab drivers turn off meters over new tax

Cab drivers turn off meters over new tax

About 90 drivers from the Choice Taxi company went on strike yesterday in protest over a 15 per cent tax on their salaries and the introduction of an $80 monthly petrol fee.

The streets of Phnom Penh were bereft of the company’s yellow fleet for several hours in the morning as drivers assembled at the company’s head office in Sen Sok district’s Toeuk Thlar commune.

“The company has always paid [this tax], but from April, it demands drivers pay themselves,” cabbie Chan Lay said.

Lay, who drives a vehicle that can take seven passengers, is paid about $150 a month.

“Last month, I took $700 [from customers], but $300 of that went on gas,” he said, adding that his bosses took $65 of every $100 left over after gas was paid for.

“We do our best to earn money, but I have no confid-ence to work now.”

Cabbie San Phearin said drivers had promised to return to work yesterday after being promised a tax official would speak with them tomorrow.

“The manager has not specified what kind of tax this is,” Phearin said.

Choice chief executive Choi Dae Yong said there was no   issue, just a lack of knowledge on the drivers’ part.

“It was just a misunderstanding. They don’t understand tax,” he said, adding that the new deduction was a value-added tax.

“But everything’s fine now. It’s been resolved, and they will return to work.”

American Center for Inter-national Labor Solidarity country manager Dave Welsh said the tax law was far from uniformly applied and workers on low salaries were hit hard when bosses suddenly withheld tax.

“If you want the poorest workers to have faith in a tax system, they need to be convinced the most influential and well-off are making the most significant contribution and that the middle class and  poor receive some services in return for taxes paid,” Welsh said.

“In my opinion, workers justifiably have no faith that either of these things is taking place.”

Finance and tax officials were unwilling to comment or could not be reached.

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