A Nigerian e-hailing drivers union, the Amalgamated Union of App-based Transport Workers of Nigeria (AUATWON), has threatened to embark on a million-man protest over what it describes as Uber and Bolt’s attempt to have its registration revoked.
Speaking to this reporter, the Secretary-General of the union, Comrade Ibrahim Ayoade, accused the two major ride-hailing companies in the country of attempting to lobby the Federal Ministry of Labour to revoke the certificate issued to the body to function as a trade union in Nigeria.
Describing it as a “disrespect to the Nigerian people and to the Nigerian Labour laws,” the president warned the ride-hailing companies to desist from such acts of sabotage or else they would face the wrath of Nigerian workers.
“Uber and Bolt wrote to the Ministry of Labour to withdraw our certificate because they didn’t employ us therefore we don’t have a right to form a union. They are crossing their boundary. They are playing with fire this time. And very soon we shall lead a million-man protest against them,” the Secretary-General said.
Similarly, the Workers’ Right Campaign (WRC) has released a statement condemning the actions of both Bolt and Uber. The rights organisation described them as an attempt to violate the constitutional rights of the workers as well as an assault against the Fundamental Rights and Principles at Work (FRPW) of the International Labour Organisation.
“We find the management’s argument that Uber and Bolt’s drivers are not workers but contractors untenable. These same companies have been made to recognise app drivers as workers and recognise their right to organise in several countries worldwide,” the statement signed by its National Coordinator, Ayemhenre Kelvin and National Secretary, Nkechi Obinna, reads.
The WRC further stated that the move to revoke the AUATWON trade union certification is aimed at cowing the app drivers and avoiding collective bargaining with their recognised union. It then implored the Federal Ministry of Labour not to succumb to the “blackmail”.
First app-based drivers union in Africa
In December 2022, the Federal Ministry of Labour approved the registration of the Amalgamated Union of App-based Transport Workers of Nigeria (AUATWON) as a trade union.
After 7 years of struggle, Uber, Bolt drivers get a government-approved union in Nigeria
With that, the organisation became the first government-approved trade union for e-hailing drivers in Africa. With the government’s approval, the AUATWN is empowered by law to have a say in determining the terms and conditions of drivers working in any app-based transportation company.
The AUATWN union is an amalgamation of three previously existing unions: the National Union of Professional App-based Transport Workers (NUPA-BTW), the Professional E-hailing Drivers and Private Owners Association of Nigeria (PEDPAN) and the National Coalition of Ride-Sharing Partners (NACORP).
Giving his reaction at the time, the Secretary-General, Comrade Ibrahim, said that “App-based companies have leveraged on divide-and-rule methods to subjugate drivers for years but now we are regaining control of our network”.
“We need protection from app-based companies. They use our expertise to make money for themselves without consulting us during important decision makings. But with a government-approved Union like AUATWON, all that will stop. We can now negotiate with them to recognize what we’re passing through when we carry out our duties.”
Now, four months down the line, the existence of the AUATWON seems to be a major bother for the major e-hailing companies in the country who are reportedly bent on killing the union in its infancy.
I contacted Uber and Bolt to get their sides of the story. Both were yet to respond by the time of press. We will update the story or grant a right of rebuttal when they do.