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Economy

Uber, Bolt start strike in double fare push

Striking Uber drivers
Striking Uber drivers park vehicles at Uhuru Park in Nairobi in the past over pricing of ride. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Drivers of taxi hailing firms including Uber and Bolt, will Monday push their vehicles off the roads in their push to double fares.

The operators, through their umbrella lobby Digital Taxi Forum, plan an indefinite strike that will disrupt transport services and boost the costly private taxis.

They want Uber, a San Francisco-based taxi e-hailing giant, Estonian online taxi-hailing app Bolt (formerly Taxify) and Safaricom backed Little Cab to more than double the cost per kilometre of rides to Sh42 from a low of Sh16 for Uber and Sh14 for Bolt, Little Cab (Sh20) and match the rates set by Automobile Association of Kenya (AA) of Sh45 per kilometre.

They also want commissions for the apps to be standardised at 10 percent of the total earnings down from the 25 percent charged by Uber and 15 percent charged by Bolt. Little has been charging a commission of five percent.

The strike is set to cause disruption to users of the online apps with conventional taxis expected to hike fares.

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Groups representing the drivers and owners of the online taxis referred to as partners claimed yesterday the three online operators have been consistently cutting fares charged to riders since they launched while increasing commissions charged against the drivers slashing their daily earnings and making “the business unsustainable.”

“Drivers and partners want the fare to be set at Sh42 per km, Sh4 per minute for 1,300cc vehicles and below,” said Rhayan Kanyandong’, the Digital Partners Society chairman.

According to Daniel Muteru, the chair of the Digital Taxi Association of Kenya, the online app firms had breached an earlier MoU committing to better pay after an 11- day strike. He claimed there is a glut of repossessed vehicles by auctioneers from car owners as they have defaulted on bank loans as a result of the lower earnings.

“All we want is the earnings to be commensurate with what the business gets,” said Mr Muteru. “We will go on strike from today until our demands are met.

Uber did not respond to queries sent to its representative by the time of going to press.

An Uber spokesperson earlier defended the lower fares arguing that “lower fares often mean riders use the service more frequently.”

“This means more trips for driver-partners and more chances for profit,” the spokesperson had said.

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