Uber drivers in South Africa
(Photo Illustration by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
  • Some Uber and Bolt drivers went on strike on Tuesday. 
  • Bolt says some users may have had to wait longer for rides.
  • Drivers have expressed concerns about their earnings after both e-hailing companies introduced cut-price rates last year.
  • For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Uber and Bolt drivers on Tuesday went offline in protest over high rates and safety concerns, among other issues.

“We are aware of a protest taking place today by a group of e-hailing drivers," an Uber spokesperson told Business Insider SA. "Drivers 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.” 

Bolt also confirmed that some of its drivers are also not working.

“Bolt is aware that a small number of drivers in Johannesburg are choosing to stay offline in protest, today, Tuesday 9 March 2021,” the e-hailing service told Business Insider. “Bolt respects every driver’s right to protest, and asks drivers to do so legally, peacefully, and without impacting the rights of other drivers who choose to continue to operate and earn an income.”

According to a Newzroom Africa report, the drivers are striking in protest at "unsustainable rates".

There has been discontent among Bolt drivers since July last year, when the company first introduced its Bolt Go product, with fares that are 20% cheaper than standard rates. They launched a strike in protest last year.

READ | Bolt Go can be cheaper than driving your own car - but waiting times are long, and drivers few

In November, Uber followed suit with its cut-price version, with trips starting at R19

Some drivers objected, but Uber said that the product would help boost demand for rides among price-sensitive consumers. 

Among the drivers’ other grievances are high service fees the e-hailing companies charge their drivers, safety concerns for both the drivers and their clients and the unfair blocking of drivers, Newzroom Africa reports.

On Tuesday, Bolt said apart from slightly longer waiting times, the protest did not have a significant impact on passengers’ ability to hail rides through its platform. It said that there were still enough drivers who opted not to participate in the protest action and stayed online to meet demand.

“Bolt engages with drivers that use the platform through a variety of channels, and is aware of drivers’ concerns about various issues,” the company said.

Last year, the Competition Commission issued a scathing report about the practices of e-hailing services in South Africa, claiming that some of their drivers are earning below minimum wage.

In addition, the Commission noted that the corporate tax paid by Uber and Bolt appears to be "disproportionately low" compared to the revenue they generated in South Africa.

Uber is facing a class action suit from some of its South African drivers, who are currently self-employed independent contractors and have limited rights.

READ | Missing out on TERS may have been last straw for SA's Uber drivers, lawyers say

A team of local lawyers, supported by a London firm which recently won a landmark case against Uber in the UK, are currently preparing a case to have Uber drivers be identified as employees and afforded rights through the Labour Relations Act and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. 

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