Ongoing Strike Action By Uber And Bolt Drivers: The Straw That Broke The Camel’s Back

Uber Bolt Drivers Protest Source Guardian Nigeria
Uber And Bolt Drivers Protest: Photo Source: Source Guardian Nigeria

The Professional E-hailing Drivers and Partners Association (PEDPA), under whose umbrella Uber and Bolt drivers fall, recently commenced a strike action.

Uber and Bolt have remained the biggest players in the ride-hailing industry in Nigeria since their arrival till date.

They have established their dominance over the industry thus making it hard for new entrants to breathe.

These two brands compete a lot using pricing rather than clear differentiation. The pricing war birthed a lot of promos and low fare prices aimed at attracting customers to use their platform. This pricing war, however, has affected the drivers who do the actual work of taking passengers to their destination.

The Umbrella body housing Uber and Bolt drivers have written severally to both companies on having a roundtable discussion about reviewing their fares in order to reduce the impact of the current inflation rate and fuel price hike as these two factors were negatively impacting the drivers.

The association wanted Uber and Bolt to increase their base fare from 500 Naira to 1000 Naira. However, every means to get Uber and Bolt to discuss a fare review failed. The lack of action and response from Uber and Bolt has led to the current downing of tools by the drivers.

Uber And Bolt Drivers Protest: Photo Source: Source Guardian Nigeria

It seems Uber and Bolt have refused to negotiate because they felt any upward review of the base fare will affect their business, considering the fact that there are more competitive e-hailing companies springing up and making prices low would help keep the new competition out of business.

While this low-cost approach to business might be a business strategy for Uber and Bolt, the low fare and high commission remitted to Uber and Bolt is seriously affecting the drivers. Uber charges 25% commission per trip while Bolt charges 20% commission per trip and in as much as these companies are in this for profit, their business can only thrive when the benefits are mutual and the drivers are also happy.

The association created was made in order to support and fight for the drivers. However in a chat with Obagunla Opayemi, a driver who does not belong to the association, he made known that “most drivers don’t believe in the association because many believe that those who formed the association are in for their selfish interest”. This is probably why we can see a lot of drivers staying away from the protest thereby reducing the impact of the protest.

A happy Driver relates with the passenger well and is helpful in rendering further assistance to the passengers and that would keep this brand in the business because the brand would be in the good book of the passengers and that is why the happiness of the drivers should be prioritized.

Many Uber and Bolt drivers get their cars from high purchase agreements that require them to pay weekly while some remit money to car owners who give their cars out for business and expect an agreed weekly return.

These factors coupled with high commission, low fares, and car maintenance have made drivers overwork themselves just to make a living.

It is evident that a new competitor might be able to latch upon this opportunity if more drivers are able to partake in this protest. According to Mr. Obagunla Opeyemi, there is an e-hailing company trying to compete in this space named “inDriver” and this competitor is probably trying to understand the current landscape by currently not receiving any commission for now however the challenge with this new platform is that it does not automatically link drivers with passengers thereby allowing the drivers to stick with Uber and Bolt.

The Strike action is probably an opportunity for this new entrant to understand the grievances of the drivers and work towards coming with a better package in order to fully compete with Uber and Bolt. For any of the ride-hailing companies, attracting customers is important but so is making the drivers happy. The ability to balance these two variables would help build a business that can withstand competitive pressure.

The constant overworking culture is one that needs to be stopped and the strike by this association is a valid argument against how people get overworked and earn peanuts. The way this issue might be addressed is going to determine whether the culture of overworking for drivers will continue and how future negotiations would go.