Uber, Taxify: Drivers v corporate

A mass meeting of Uber and Taxify drivers took place at Zoo Lake in Johannesburg on Monday (Gemma Ritchie)

A mass meeting of Uber and Taxify drivers took place at Zoo Lake in Johannesburg on Monday (Gemma Ritchie)

On Monday morning, thousands of concerned Uber and Taxify drivers met to discuss a memorandum which they delivered to the Uber head offices in Sandton.

Commuters were warned on social media and over the radio about a Uber and Taxify meeting which took place at Zoo Lake in Johannesburg.

In a statement released by Uber, the company said that it was aware that some drivers were planning to disable the ride-hailing app.

According to one of the drivers’ designated speakers, Stephen Bhebe, drivers are concerned that they were being left out of discussions regarding policy making.

Bhebe likened being left out of the policy-making discussions as “technological slavery”, because of the high cost of running an Uber vehicle.

According to Bhebe, despite the increase in fuel prices, Uber and Taxify fares have remained the same.

READ MORE: Uber sued for pay inequality, sexual harassment, discrimination

Uber driver Cosmos Mdhlolo said that on average, drivers make about R16 000 a month, but the expense to drive either the UberX, Uber Black and Uber Van seriously cuts their profits. This was especially so since the number of daily rides varied with Uberx drivers making between 12 and 15 trips to an Uber van driver making an average of one or two trips a day.

On average, Mdhlolo said, drivers will spend R2 800 on fuel, R4 000 on renting the car, and R2 250 on insurance per month. These daily operating costs exclude paying excess on damages and routine service on the cars. Over and above the drivers’ operating expenses, drivers are expected to pay Uber and Taxify 25% and 15% respectively in order to use the app.

Uber has responded by stating that steps had been taken earlier in June to reduce the impact of fuel increases, recognising the expense of fuel. Uber said that it had launched a winter incentive which is based on a calculation of the number of trips the drivers make and the fuel efficiency of the vehicle. 

Effectively, drivers will receive an amount based on the city they work in and the vehicles they drive. For instance, if an UberX driver in Johannesburg completes a certain number of trips in a week, they will receive an additional R100 for that week.

But, the company was not planning on increasing fares anytime soon.

“What we‘ve seen in cities across the world is that lower fares mean greater demand, lower pickup times and more trips per hour,” Uber’s statement read. “We constantly monitor to ensure that supply and demand are in balance.”

READ MORE: Uber drivers fight back with spotters

Another concern for Mdhlolo was safety. As a father of six, he questioned who would look after his children if something were to happen to him. He explained that Uber drivers were susceptible to hijackings and robberies. To add to the concern of safety, Bhebe said that there is still animosity between Uber and the metered taxi association.

Uber said they had tried to address drivers’ safety concerns with the launch of a mobile emergency app. The app is meant to connect drivers to the “closest private response vehicles”.

However, Bhebe said that the app has not stopped attacks in and around hotspots.

“Uber makes right for us and we make right for Uber. But they are changing slowly to the bad,” Mdhlolo said. 

Gemma Ritchie

Gemma Ritchie

Gemma Ritchie works in the Mail & Guardian's online department. She majored in English Literature at a small liberal arts college in the USA.  Read more from Gemma Ritchie

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