E-hailing drivers in Joburg set to protest at Uber, Bolt offices on Monday… Here's why

E-hailing drivers are calling for Bolt to dump the Bajaj Qute quadricycle, over safety, tensions with minibus taxis and complaints of sabotage for other operators. Picture: Supplied

E-hailing drivers are calling for Bolt to dump the Bajaj Qute quadricycle, over safety, tensions with minibus taxis and complaints of sabotage for other operators. Picture: Supplied

Published Oct 16, 2023


E-hailing operators from Uber and Bolt are expected to picket at the offices of both operators on Monday, calling for Bolt to dump the recently introduced yellow India-sourced Bajaj Qute quadricycles.

They are also calling on Uber to dump the new Trip Radar ride offering system, which basically auctions trips to drivers, with the fastest fingers getting the trip.

In a memorandum, the e-Hailing Partners Council (EPC), which is a membership driven driver representative non-profit organisation, said the low-cost Bajaj quadricycles — which have flooded the market through a partnership by Bolt, the Gauteng government and fleet provider, My Next Car — were sabotaging business for existing operators.

They also said the cars were not safe for either the drivers, nor passengers, also saying the pricing model of the Bajaj Bolt Lite category would heighten tensions with minibus operators as the pricing was similar.

To Uber, the EPC said they were against a partnership between Uber Eats and the Gauteng government, as it would sabotage existing players. The Gauteng government has invested R200 million in an effort to supply 10,000 township youth with scooters through a partnership with Uber Eats.

Other grievances:

– The EPC has complained of high commission fees and unsustainable low pricing, which cannot sustain operational costs for driver owners and ensure profitability. They are calling for 18 percent commission, rather than the near 28 percent commission charged.

– Complaints about the dynamic and upfront pricing models.

– Complaints about driver roundtables not being transparent.

– Complaints about Uber’s Trip Radar, which was described as “deepening exploitation” and that it put drivers at risk of accepting potentially dangerous trips as it pitted drivers against each other in real time, with the fastest to respond getting the trip.

– Calls for e-hailing operators to ensure vetting of riders to improve driver safety.

– Complaints around transparency regarding how cars were removed after performing inspections.

Both Uber and Bolt issued detailed responses to the EPC ahead of their planned action on Monday. They are expected to picket outside Bolt’s Randburg offices and Uber’s Sandton offices at 9am.

In responding to the call to dump the Bajaj Bolt Lite category quadricycles, Bolt said: “We are constantly looking for ways to increase earning opportunities for drivers and have recently introduced a new ride category (Bolt Lite), which is a low-cost vehicle solution that is economically viable for drivers during these tough economic times.

“We are compassionate towards drivers and the macroeconomic factors they face and will continue to assess fares and make adjustments where possible,” Bolt said.

“Bolt also continues to monitor a reduction in passenger demand given the cost of living pressures and looks to incentivise more passenger demand, supporting an increase in driver earnings.”

Bolt also said reducing the commission structure of 23 percent per ride, with an additional four percent booking fee charged to the rider, would be untenable as it relied on the commission to fund marketing and operations, driver bonus initiatives and app development.

Bolt said drivers were not forced to take trips they did not feel were safe, but they were expected to complete trips they accepted, and that it shared danger spots with drivers.

“If a driver accepts a trip and later cancels, there may be a negative impact on their driver score, and drivers with a significant drop in their driver score may be blocked for extended periods. This is to ensure the quality of service on the platform is maintained,” Bolt said.

“Furthermore, before drivers can accept a trip, they have an overview of the passenger’s profile. However, drivers have the option to cancel a trip when they arrive to pick up the passenger and feel unsafe and provide feedback in the app that they did not feel safe or comfortable, and their driver score will not be affected.”

In it's response, Uber defended it's partnership with the Gauteng government, saying it was aimed at addressing the unemployment problem in South Africa by investing in digitising township businesses.

“Our investment is expected to yield over R500m in gross value added for Gauteng in the next three years. This however, is only one contribution to a broader last-mile initiative that the province is leading, and they are best placed to provide further detail,” Uber said.

“It is within this context that we must be consistent with the needs of the country and province as this is part of the much needed private sector participation in an increasingly challenging economic climate.”

Uber has also defended Trip Radar, saying it was in fact giving drivers more options to earn.

“This means, more options for drivers, less risk of dead kilometres or idling and low waiting times for riders,” Uber said.

“Trip Radar is available in over 60 countries and is being safely used by more than 800,000 earners daily.”

Uber said that drivers would still receive individual requests as they did before.

Uber said it was currently piloting the identification document verification of new cash riders on their platforms.