Rorisang Kgosana
Premium Journalist
3 minute read
22 Jun 2017
5:10 am

Uber drivers take a stand

Rorisang Kgosana

Enough: Drivers consider strike action if concerns are not addressed.

A Police officer walks past he remains of a burnt Taxify Metered Taxi that had allegedly been attacked and thrown with a petrol bomb, the driver managed to escape leaving the car to roll down the road and stop against an apartment building fence, 21 June 2017, Sunnyside, Pretoria. Picture: Jacques Nelles

Uber drivers are living in fear of attacks by metered taxi drivers, of robberies and of hijackings.

They have had enough and are mobilising to take action.

And they are also fed up with the Uber corporation which, they say, exploits them and doesn’t care about them.

This became apparent at a meeting yesterday held by “The Movement”, which is a mobilisation of drivers, mostly with Ubers but some with Taxify metered taxis, to discuss grievances in the hope that their voices are heard.

“People are getting followed from airports all the time. We have got the metered taxis to deal with, we have hijackings to deal with, we have got Uber who do nothing to help us and we don’t want to scare clients away,” said The Movement’s Teresa Munchick yesterday.

Her comments came shortly before a Taxify driver managed to escape injury when he jumped out of his car that was allegedly petrol bombed in Sunnyside, Pretoria. According to witnesses, the white Honda had stopped on the corner of Justice Mohamed and Johnston streets to drop off a passenger. Another vehicle following apparently threw a petrol bomb at the vehicle.

The driver jumped out of the burning vehicle. The owner of the vehicle, who wished to remain anonymous, said the driver was taken to Medforum Hospital for possible smoke inhalation.

“They attacked him thinking it’s an Uber. He is currently in hospital but apparently these attacks have been happening a lot lately,” she said.

Earlier this month, an Uber taxi driver was seriously burnt when his vehicle was set alight near the Loftus Versveld Stadium.

Munchick said Uber needed to allow for identification of passengers, and this would ensure they are not lured into a trap. She further called for more drivers to mobilise in the hopes of the organisation growing, and in effect making a necessary change for those affected.

“We want indentification for cash trips. We need to mobilise people. This is a nice turn-out but we really need to get more people, so they take us more seriously,” she said.

Pointing to the issue of exploitation, Munchick added that partner drivers earn very little money and further questioned whether putting their lives at risk was worth it for a measly payout.

Some drivers at the meeting said Uber needed to be put under more pressure and suggested the possibility of striking for a day.

“We need to organise. Uber is exploiting us,” said one.

Another driver added that he understood the tension between metered and taxi drivers.

“When we talk about dealing with Uber as drivers and driver partners, we need to understand who we are dealing with.

“We are dealing with a huge, huge organisation that has got a lot of money and a lot of presence in pretty much the entire globe. When we are dealing with them as this group as we are in Gauteng, we are not going to have a voice.

“Our chances of success in dealing with Uber and dealing with the competition with metered taxis, will depend on us being organised.

“When it comes to organising the goal should be to organise as an industry not just as Uber or Taxify. The way these companies are designed is to have nothing to do with us and deal with our issues.

“All they control is the technology and say they don’t employ us. However they decide the prices. They decide the name and how to play the game.

“As much as I drive for Uber, I do feel that some of the issues metered taxis have with Uber are legit. We are too cheap. These companies are squeezing the little guys out of industry by being cheap. We are taking a beating from that.”

He said should this situation present itself somewhere else in the world metered taxi drivers could be absorbed elsewhere because their economies were performing.

“But unfortunately in South Africa, our economy is not performing. If your mother or father ran a metered taxi for 20 years and are squeezed out – where are they going to go?”

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