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Uber reacts to drivers’ demands as strike enters Day 3

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PHOTO: QUIQUE GARCIA /AFP

Ride-hailing giant Uber on Wednesday said “speaking with drivers is important” as the strike called by the drivers enters Day 2.

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Uber, however, referred to the striking drivers as a “small group”.

“We are aware of a protest taking place by a small group of e-hailing drivers, resulting in slightly longer waiting times for riders,” a spokesperson for the ride-hailing company said in an email statement sent to The Guardian.

“We respect driver-partners as valuable partners with a voice and a choice and we want them to know that we are always open to their feedback.”

Drivers on Uber and Bolt platforms downed tools over revenue share and price regulation. A representative of the drivers in Lagos on Saturday said that both Bolt and Uber are solely responsible for the determination of fares, a practice he said is disadvantageous to them.

The drivers wanted the fares to be increased to reflect the increase in prices of petrol and the present economic realities. A litre of petrol currently sells for between N162 and N165.

There is a possibility of the pricing spiking in June.

“In a quest to work and harmoniously at resolving some issues, the association wrote several letters to the companies which were not attended to, showing nonchalant attitude towards our plight,” Idris Shonuga, the national president of Professional E-hailing Drivers and Private Owners Association (PEDPA), said at a press conference on Saturday.

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“Your companies have failed, refused and neglected to honour our request for a meeting to discuss issues beneficial to all e-hailing drivers in Nigeria.

Shonuga said that the current payment formula is ‘ridiculously low’ and the decision to slash the payment was made unilaterally by Bolt and Uber for their respective platforms.

He said the initial agreement was N90 per kilometre, N10 per minute when fuel was at 95 per litre in 2015, not the new price of N60 per kilometre made without our consent.

But Uber alluded to difficulty in negotiating with the drivers, noting they are “diverse” in nature.

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“It’s however important to note that diver-partners are diverse in how they use the Uber app and it would be difficult for an individual or group to holistically represent every driver on the app,” Uber spokesperson said.

Drivers on Uber platforms in Nigeria are not deemed employees of the company. In fact, they are not seen as employees in nearly everywhere Uber operates.

That changed in the UK in February after a court said the drivers were entitled to workers’ rights.

The following month, Uber said, “more than 70,000 drivers in the UK will be treated as workers, earning at least the national living wage when driving with Uber.”

It describes its arrangement in Nigeria as a “partnership” between it and the drivers.

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