Last week I was so tired from all the back-to-back meetings at the office that I decided to ‘cab’ home. People who know me, will be shocked to hear this because they know I always try to save when it comes to transport. MRT and bus FTW!
I was so surprised that the driver who accepted my booking was Nora who used to do Zumba with me every Friday night. Nora said she had to give up Zumba because she’s now driving nights, after her kids come back from school.
I asked her whether driving at night was scary because got so many hantus. Not just the supernatural kinds, but also the party-until-drunk types!
Nora just laughed and said while she didn’t enjoy the cleaning up after some passengers throw up, she’d rather do that than to deal with physical violence or even verbal abuse that she sometimes had to put up with.
“Sometimes, they are not even drunk! Just because I am a female driver, got some comments that I am a slow and bad driver! But I’m okay to put up with as long as they pay their fares lah.”
I asked Nora if she is considering a job switch soon since it all sounds stressful.
Nora shared that being a taxi vehicle driver offers her the flexibility to carry out her caregiving duties in the day. With two school-going kids, she can choose to drive while they are in school. Now that it’s the school holidays, she will drive at nights so that she can spend time with them in the day.
However, she admitted that driving long hours has sometimes made her very vulnerable to being sick. She also regularly has back pains which became worse ever since she stopped Zumba!
So, what happens when she falls sick? Can take MC or not, I asked.
“Can is can lah but if I don’t drive, then no income. Then, the rental siapa nak bayar (who will pay)? So even when I not 100% okay I still need to drive.”
According to Nora, even with all these challenges, she’s still considered lucky because her family is dual income so her income from driving is usually kept mainly as savings for the family.
Nora said she’s not alone in facing these challenges because there are several associations under NTUC which have been consistently looking for ways to better protect the livelihoods of platform workers like herself.
“Medical and injury coverage, training opportunities, financial adequacy are just some of the areas that can benefit us. Of course, if we seek long-term financial adequacy then there must be a trade-off, because if we want to be able to pay for our medical, housing and enough for retirement then, just like you, we need to contribute to CPF. So, I just hope that if this happens, then there is a transition period where we get some support lah because take-home pay for sure will be affected.”
Nora’s sharing has given me a new-found respect for drivers in general because their challenges are complex and multi-faceted. I hope that the day will come where they will be supported with enhanced protection and secure a better future.
Meanwhile I will also do my part…in my attempt to ‘enhance’ Nora’s take-home pay and ‘chope’ her to pick me up from office on alternate days.