Earlier in the week, Uber and Bolt's drivers embarked on a week-long strike. The strike is a result of the non-review of prices charged by the e-hailing companies in Nigeria.
Uber and Bolt are two of the biggest ride-hailing platforms in Africa. The platforms make a profit by connecting riders with drivers at a metered pricing. At the end of the ride, each platform charges its drivers 25% of the cash paid by the riders.
However, the drivers feel the pricing is not cost-effective when compared to the cost of their services. Hence, the request they made to Uber and Bolt, through the Professional E-hailing Drivers and Private Owners Association (PEDPA), to review their pricing and reduce the commission charged per ride to 10%.
PEDPA is an umbrella body of the driver-partner community formed in 2019. They are affiliated with the Trade Union Congress (TUC) of Nigeria.
Before the strike, PEDPA’s blog post on its website dubbed, “Introduction of PEDPA to app companies and request for synergy meeting,” revealed that they’ve reached out to e-hailing companies since September 2020, but they ‘failed’ to comply.
Excerpts from the letter read, “In spite of our letter under reference wherein we introduced our association to your company as the body recognized by Trade Union Congress (TUC), International Labor Organization (ILO) and relevant Government Ministries, Agencies and Parastatal in Nigeria as the umbrella registered e-hailing drivers’ union in Nigeria, your company has failed, refused and/or neglected to honor our request for a meeting to discuss issues beneficial to all e – hailing drivers in Nigeria.
Consequently and in view of your nonchalant attitude, continuing abuse, unfriendly/inhuman treatment and unjustifiable unilateral blockage of e-hailing drivers from your data base in Nigeria, we shall be compelled and left with no other option than to mobilize/organize our members for an embarrassing protest against your company should you fail to meet with the leadership of the union on or before the close of business on the 15th day of April, 2021 to fashion out a more beneficial arrangements that will better the lives and standard of living of all e – hailing drivers in Nigeria.”
On April 15, 2021, the union through its website gave out a five point demand to the e-hailing companies. They requested for;
- The immediate profiling of all riders that patronize the e-hailing platforms.
- The immediate joint upward review of the current Uber and Bolt fare to meet the current Nigerian economy. In this manner;
-₦500 base fare
-₦1000 Minimum fare.
- The immediate review of all accounts blocked unjustifiably.
- An adequate welfare package for drivers and compensation to the family of those that lost their lives or are permanently disabled.
- That all policy be reviewed by Driver’s Union before being enacted.
But it seems PEDPA’s request fell on deaf ears as later on the same date, they notified Lease Partners—car owners who lease out their vehicles to e-hailing drivers for a weekly commission) about the intending strike.
The union officially announced the strike via their blog on April 17, 2021.
Speaking on the strike, the National Secretary of PEDPA, Ajani Titilayo said it was long overdue. “The ridiculous fares being charged by the ride-hailing companies means that the services of our drivers are being devalued, considering everything in the market has skyrocketed from the price of fuel to vehicles spare parts which has also increased.”
She further stressed that the current rate of ₦65 per kilometer is not cost-effective for drivers. She opined that the price be reviewed to ₦100 per kilometer with a minimum fare of ₦1,000 for every ride placed on the app.
“You don’t expect an air-conditioned car in a good working condition, which is likely to be stuck in traffic, to pick a passenger for ₦400 or ₦300. It’s very challenging,” she said.
PEDPA also stressed the need for e-hailing companies to improve their welfare package. According to them, over 15 drivers had lost their lives, some permanently disabled, and others kidnapped and killed by robbers. They lamented that these e-hailing companies do not compensate the victims and their families.
This action by the PEDPA is not the first of its kind in Africa. In February 2021, a group of human rights lawyers filed a class-action lawsuit against Uber South Africa. The suit supported Uber’s thousands of local drivers who needed compensation for unpaid overtime and holiday pay. E-hailing drivers in Kenya are also threatening to embark on strike due to similar issues.
In my conversation with a driver who operates on both platforms, he lamented that he spends more than he’s making on the platforms. “These platforms are my source of livelihood, but these days, I seem to spend more than I am getting. By the time I fuel and service my car, and Uber or Bolt take their commission, I am left with nothing from the day’s work.
The most painful part is that I still have to remit ₦30,000 weekly to the car owner. How then do I meet my needs if all I make from work goes back into work? Uber and Bolt should please consider our plea and review the prices upward because it will go a long way in helping our cause.”
An ex-driver I also spoke with said, “This is part of the reason why I left that job. I can’t fuel and service my car, toil through traffic for a whole day, to have these platforms leave me with nothing. It’s cheating, to be honest. The most annoying part is that they block you at the littlest complaint without hearing your side of the story. They need to fix up.”
The strike as expected, negatively affected riders, and they took to social media to lament.
These ride-hailing companies seems stuck as whatever decision they take might hunt them. Reducing their commission will affect them as well as increasing their prices. The latter will spark an outcry and possibly a boycott by users. They might have to deliberate with PEDPA and proffer a solution that will favor them, the riders, and the drivers.