Uber and Taxify drivers are not happy with the e-hailing companies. This was the sentiment expressed by the president of the National Union of Professional e-Hailing Driver Partners (NUPEDP), Comrade Ayoade Ibrahim in a chat with TechNext.
Ayoade listed abandonment during the Covid-19 lockdown among others as a major reason for their negative sentiment. Recall that Uber suspended its services during the lockdown while Taxify tried to onboard drivers into a delivery-type operation which didn’t amount to much in the end.
According to Ayoade, both companies could have done better.
“In the U.S. the uber drivers are considered essential workers throughout,” the comrade said. “With that, they have more opportunities and more advantages than driver partners in Nigeria.”Ayoade Ibrahim, National President, NUPEDP
He went on to highlight some disparities in the treatment of Uber drivers abroad against their treatment right here. These include a difference in pricing mechanism and remittances. According to him, Uber charges a 20% commission in the US against the 25% it charges in Nigeria.
However, studies show that in the US, while Uber advertises a commission of 25%, it actually charges as much as 42%. This is because, in the US, Uber accepts a booking fee which the drivers know nothing about.
Average monthly earnings of an Uber driver in the US is therefore pegged at about $364, roughly N145,000. In Nigeria, Uber drivers have been reported to earn between 51,000 to 70,000 per week. This means between 204,000 to 280,000 in a month. But these reports didn’t factor in the commission of 25%.
According to Mr Ayoade, there is also the problem of app features which, while available elsewhere, are missing in Nigeria. He claims there are ‘special bonuses’ given to drivers elsewhere as well as the right to have driver representatives which are equivalents of unions down here.
“They didn’t recognise us as a body,” Ayoade said. “We want them to recognize our union which is an affiliate of Trade Union Congress Of Nigeria (TUC) the way they recognised others.”
He chalked it all down to a lack of regulation.
Divide and conquer
Ayoade accused Uber and Taxify of employing a strategy of “divide and conquer” by sowing disunity among drivers. He says there are certain categories of drivers whom the e-hailing companies pay ‘every other week’. Then there are those who supply fleets of cars to the companies to help them boost their businesses and get paid ‘every year’.
“They all believe they are working directly with the big app companies and they report our moves to them,” he says.
This has made unity among the drivers a thing of wishes as there are just too many interests among them. He, however, admits that some drivers are naturally averse to the idea of unionism because unionism means touting and thuggery, at least in Nigeria.
Possibility of industrial action
Uber drivers have been known to embark on strikes and protests from time to time. A little over a year ago, for instance, Uber drivers embarked on a strike in the UK. The case wasn’t very different in New York last September. In Nigeria, the cities of Lagos and Abuja have seen protests by e-hailing drivers.
Quizzed whether his association would look to industrial actions as a means of driving home their point and getting the companies to act in the desired manner, the president said strikes won’t work in the present situation due to a number of factors.
“Most driver partners don’t have their own cars as they obtain it usually from rentage and higher purchase. That category (of drivers) can’t strike because they have weekly remittances to make. Therefore, only car owners can afford to go on strike because they don’t deliver to anybody.”
He, however, said his association is looking at other means of demanding for their rights. One of them is through social media. Another is through seeking redress in court.
The president also said the union is looking to help its members that don’t own their own vehicles do so. This, he believes, would give them a lot more leverage in matters like this.
e-Hailing capable of creating millions of jobs
It is no longer news that e-hailing companies are creating millions of jobs every year for the global economy. As of 2015, Uber alone claims it has the capacity to produce 1 million jobs a year.
Mr Ayoade supports this stance, insisting that e-hailing, if well-regulated, has the capacity to create millions of jobs in Nigeria. According to him, there are 30,000 Uber drivers in Lagos alone. Other companies may have up to 20,000.
“If you look at those figures (multiplied) with the number of states we have in Nigeria plus FCT, then apart from driver-partners you also talk of marketers, super ambassadors, Inspection centres and app companies staff, e-hailing industries have capabilities of providing millions of jobs to Nigerians.”
While this might be so, the quality of jobs been created by e-Hailing recently leaves much to be desired. And with more and more people jumping unto the gig economy as drivers, it remains to be seen how resources will be stretched thin.
With life gradually returning back to normal, Uber and other rideshare companies will be looking to continue where they stopped before the pandemic. They would definitely need to do a lot of placating to get their unhappy drivers by their sides going forward.