The Batam administration has revoked the license of the Blue Bird Group after 2,500 local taxi drivers went on strike to protest against the firm’s entrance into the local market.
“For all your sakes, the license of Blue Bird is revoked,” Batam Mayor Rudi said on Tuesday to a crowd of 2,500 striking drivers, many of whom had parked their vehicles haphazardly outside the mayor’s office.
“I will bear any consequences of the license revocation. Now please disperse,” Rudi added.
The announcement followed a meeting between the mayor and Batam Transportation Agency chief Zulhendri with representatives of the drivers grouped under the Barelang Port Taxi Drivers Communication Forum (FKPTPB).
The drivers, many of whom have vehicles over 15 years old, began to assemble on the street in front of the mayor’s office around 8 a.m. local time.
FKPTPB secretary Satria Dharma said the strike involved 12 local taxi firms whose drivers would be threatened by the arrival of Blue Bird in Batam.
According to one driver, Satria, who said he has been behind the wheel for more than 30 years, the local market was saturated and competition was intense, given the thousands of taxis currently operating in Batam.
“Most drivers can only earn between Rp 40,000 [US$4.24] and Rp 100,000 a day. Some don’t make any money at all. This indicates that the number of taxi cabs is already disproportionate,” Satria said.
“Why does the municipality remain issuing new permits?” Satria added.
Meanwhile, Aswen Dorres, the chairman of the Batam chapter of the Organization of Land Transportation Owners (Organda), said that the group had not been consulted on the issuance of an operating license to Blue Bird.
“Organda rejects the presence of Blue Bird in Batam. Its operation will threaten the livelihood of taxi drivers in Batam. We urge the municipality to revoke its operating license,” Aswen, who is also owner of the Asdor taxi fleet in Batam, said.
Taxi owner Mohammad Gofur said he was concerned that Blue Bird’s presence in Batam might drive him out of business, as the number of taxi passengers in Batam has dwindled, given that the number of visitors to the city has declined steadily in recent years.
According to Gofur, a taxi driver who could earn between Rp 200,000 and Rp 300,000 a day in 2005 was lucky to clear Rp 100,000 today.
“My small children also wanted to join the rally against Blue Bird’s presence because it could deprive us of our living,” Gofur said.
Batam municipal spokesman Ardiwinata said Batam could currently sustain 3,000 licensed taxis, while the number of official taxis registered with the Batam Transportation Agency was 2,300 units.
The Blue Bird Group previously submitted a request to license 500 taxis in the city, although the administration only authorized it to operate 300 taxis, to give additional operators a chance to compete.
Ardiwinata said that the administration had approved the Blue Bird Group, whose drivers are noted for honest and reliable service, to improve the quality of local firms.
“Many people have complained about the poor taxi service in Batam. Blue Bird’s presence was aimed at encouraging healthy competition among other taxi operators,” Ardiwinata said.
Batam Blue Bird Group operations chief Sutrisno said that the firm had had 50 taxis ready to operate before the mayor revoked its license, leaving its local launch in abeyance.
“Our presence in Batam will not put other taxi companies out of business. We have our own customer segment. We have our own rules, which are stricter. We have a loyal customer segment,” said Sutrisno.