Third party delivery
(Getty)
  • Uber Eats drivers have embarked on a strike on Friday in protest against a cut in delivery fees.
  • The company says lower delivery charges will mean more orders for drivers.
  • But some drivers claim their earnings have halved over the past three years.  
  • For more articles, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Uber Eats drivers have embarked on a strike on Friday, in protest against a recent fee cut.

The delivery company confirmed to Business Insider that a group of drivers went offline on Friday in Johannesburg and Pretoria.

According to Duane Bernard, spokesperson for a national group of drivers, some couriers in the Western Cape and Port Elizabeth are also not doing deliveries. 

Last month, drivers brought deliveries in Gauteng to a standstill for two days in protest of a sharp fall in their income over recent months, after Uber Eats cut delivery fees. Bernard confirmed that the strike will end on Friday night.

In response to pressure from restaurants, Uber Eats last year lowered its delivery fees from 30% per delivery (plus 5% to the driver), to a capped fee of around R9 per meal, says Bernard.

This has contributed to a fall in earnings, with Bernard claiming that some drivers have seen their average earnings halve in the past three years.

Bernard says drivers are currently getting a “pick up” fee of R10 per delivery, plus R4 a mile (1.6km).

"This is total unacceptable." Drivers are demanding a pick-up fee of R20 and then R6/km after the first 2km.

“Fuel price will increase again soon and we refuse to work for lower rates year on year.”

Following an increase in oil prices in recent weeks, the petrol price is currently due to rise by almost 80c a litre in the first week of February. In January, petrol prices were increased by more than 40c a litre.

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.

"South Africa has seen a number of challenges in the last year and based on our data, consumers are more price-sensitive than ever before," a Uber spokesperson said in a statement. "For our business to remain sustainable for customers, restaurants and delivery-drivers we needed to implement sustainable changes to our fee structure as fewer orders from customers means less earning opportunities for all."

Uber Eats says the recent cut in its delivery charges should boost demand "so more people are ordering more often through the Uber Eats app". 

"As a result, delivery-partners will spend more time making deliveries and less time sitting idly waiting for orders."

The company says it is paying "temporary incentives" for drivers to maintain their earnings.

On social media, Uber Eats clients expressed their frustration on Friday:

"We will give Uber Eats a month to engage driver partners countrywide regarding rates," Bernard said.

Other demands

Apart from a fee increase for Uber Eats deliveries, the drivers also want a minimum of R30 for the first two kilometres for courier deliveries as part of the Uber Connect delivery service. They currently receive around R4 a kilometre, Bernard says. The drivers also want Uber to limit its courier deliveries to less than 100km, as many drivers use scooters and can’t access the highways.

In addition, the drivers object to their accounts being blocked "for no apparent reason", and they also want Uber to stop using labour brokers. They claim that applicants who apply via these third parties have to pay large fees – but if they apply directly, they end up waiting many months to get activated on Uber Eats.

Its sister service, Uber, also introduced a new cheaper option that starts from R19 a trip, using predominantly hatchback cars. This followed a similar move by Bolt, whose cheap “Bolt Go” option triggered a nationwide strike in November, as drivers complained about the impact on their earnings.

Compiled by Helena Wasserman

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