Workers' rights

Local driving personnel have a crucial role in tourism:  their working conditions and motivation directly influence customer satisfaction and safety. Hardly any group of people has as much contact with travellers as public or chartered bus drivers, private chauffeurs and taxi drivers. They do, however, often work in precarious working conditions.

Driving personnel in tourism are often employed by specialised transport service providers rather than by tour operators directly. Often, they do not comply with national legislation or international requirements for safety and labour standards. This concerns working hours, the content of working contracts as well as the payment of adequate salaries and tipping policies.

Drivers’ low wages often do not allow for a decent standard of living. Often, drivers and their helpers employed by transportation companies are highly dependent on tips, meaning their income is highly volatile and dependent on occupancy and customer generosity.

In many cases, overtime is neither compensated nor paid and annual leave is unpaid and can only be taken in low season. In peak season, there is often not sufficient time to rest between duties. Driving personnel’s long working hours also have a direct influence on travellers' safety.

Besides international regulations, many countries have their own laws concerning working hours and maximum driving and rest periods for driving personnel. However, in many cases, state authorities do not adequately control their implementation. At the same time, drivers themselves are often not sensitive enough to these issues. Since their employment opportunities are, in many cases, only seasonal, they try to work as much as possible during the peak periods.

Tourist bus drivers: Iceland
Drivers’ organization: Colombia
Bus driver: San Francisco
Tourist bus drivers: Iceland

Social dumping of tourist bus drivers in Iceland

The Icelandic Travel Industry Association (SAF) has been focussing on foreign busses and bus drivers coming and staying in Iceland for the summer. The drivers work outside of Icelandic legislation and regulations. The SAF found that ten buses were being driven illegally in Iceland in 2016, and talks about social dumping: “Busses with foreign drivers who are paid far less than other bus drivers in Iceland are coming here, [creating] unfair competition”.

Drivers’ organization: Colombia

Colombian drivers are organising to improve working conditions

More than 400 workers in Cartagena’s special taxi service, which mainly covers tourist and school transportation, along with regular services, organised to improve their working conditions and continue the fight against new transport apps. Cartagena is one of Colombia’s main tourist destinations, and the tourism sector has grown considerably in recent years. 

Bus driver: San Francisco

A day in the life of a San Francisco bus driver

Public bus drivers face various challenges in their daily work, including violence and aggression, pressure to keep to a strict schedule, resulting in stress, and a constant need for vigilance and responsibility for thousands of passengers a day. 

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Take action

Policy and process

Supplier assessment

  • Assess the working conditions of drivers in destinations.

Training and capacity building

  • Train procurement staff on the issue of drivers' working conditions and how they can be addressed.

Responsible product development

  • Plan tours in a way that allows drivers to have the necessary rest periods.

Find more information on potential measures to take on the "take action" site. 

Learn more

Find more information in the Resource Centre.