JEDDAH: FADIA JIFFRY ARAB NEWS STAFF
Published — Saturday 14 July 2012
Last update 14 July 2012 6:04 pm
The wages of private drivers have been increasing over the years, sometimes accounting for nearly half the amount of a female employee's monthly income.
“As drivers, our demand has its reasons. I provide my customers with the best service,” said 44-year-old Indian driver, Mohd. Alawi. “The maintenance of the car costs me around SR500 a month, just enough to demand SR1,200 per month from my female customers.”
He said if a driver abides by road rules, is cordial with his female customers, and above all, maintains a clean, air-conditioned vehicle, then it is only reasonable that he demands between SR1,500 and SR2,000
Women in the Kingdom need transportation aid because they are not allowed to drive themselves. Women are up in arms over having to depend on relatives and drivers for travel.
“Drivers do charge a rather high rate per month,” said Reem Gazzaz, a 47-year-old HR manager. “The company I work for pays SR800 of my transportation fee, so I only have to pay my driver SR400 out of my own pocket. My driver’s income of SR1,200 per month is pretty low compared to mine. I’m sure other women only get paid a small sum per month. They might find it difficult to cope with these drivers’ demands.” Gazzas stated that the driver’s demands are climbing and that it is the company’s duty to look after its female employees and provide them with the necessary transport, especially because women are not allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia.
Ahmed Hamar, 32, works part time as a private driver for a Saudi family. He complains he doesn’t earn enough to serve his family back home.
“I make only SR1,500 in my current job,” said Hamar. “I have a family at home that I have to look after with the money I earn here. So, I need to take up a part time job to cover that up. After I drop my madam and her children at school, I am free most of the time. During this time I revive my part-time job. Mostly I transport Saudi women to their workplaces. My rates range from SR2,000 to SR2,500 per month. If I have to increase, it would only be because they are not punctual. I have another job to attend to and I am sacrificing my time to them.” Women who do not have a private driver and face the daily hassle of hiring a taxi, demand solutions to end their transport woes. Taxi drivers, they say, take advantage of the rush hour and charge more per ride to and from work.
Najiba Rashed, a 28-year-old salesgirl said that she has been taking a taxi to work since she started working a month ago.
“I am looking to hire a driver but I’m unable to find one for a reasonable fee,” said Rashed. “Several drivers I spoke to request very high amounts, usually SR1,000 and above, which is almost my salary.”
She said that usually when getting home after work she requests a friend, who has her own driver, to drop her home everyday. “That is not something I can continue doing and it is very shameful,” she added.
Rashed expressed her concern on the issue suggesting that the government should implement public transport or start a bus service for working women in the Kingdom.
Some companies provide their female employees with transportation while others don’t. The burden eventually falls on their families who are forced to pay a huge amount to these drivers.
When drivers are offered a satisfying wage, they fail to commit to their previous jobs.
“I receive SR400 a month in car allowance and I had to pay the remaining SR400 from my own pocket to my driver,” said Amani Masyoon, a 33-year-old Egyptian expatriate working as an advertising professional.
Masnyoon explained that she had to hire a driver to get her to and from work, since her husband had odd working hours and couldn’t cater to her work timings. “After working with us for three months, he demanded an extra SR700 to his salary, saying that he was offered a better pay from a richer household and hoped to move there.”
Mohd. Basha, a Pakistani driver, said many employed women are looking for a driver, and this offers drivers a good chance to demand.
“Sometimes I am even tipped when I have to take them to places other than their offices. I work as a private driver for two families and both families require me to drive the female members to their work places” said Basha.