Uber and Ola driver threaten strike on Dec 31, Airport taxis fight cab-aggregators

The issue began when Ola and Uber started charging Rs 400-500 for rides from the Kempegowda International Airport
Uber and Ola driver threaten strike on Dec 31, Airport taxis fight cab-aggregators
Uber and Ola driver threaten strike on Dec 31, Airport taxis fight cab-aggregators
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Weeks after Uber and Ola got their own permanent customer pick-up stands at the Kempegowda International Airport in Bengaluru, their own drivers and drivers of the Airport taxi are up in arms against them.

While Airport taxi drivers complain that the cab-aggregators are indulging in predatory pricing, their own drivers are unhappy at the dwindling incentives, and are threatening a strike on December 31.

“Cab aggregators like Ola and Uber have been charging the customer Rs 400-500 for a ride to the airport. The drivers have to pay Rs 125 at the toll plaza and they in turn end up making Rs 400, out of which the cab aggregators take a cut. Airport and tourist taxis charge the government prescribed rates, as a ride from the airport to MG Road would cost Rs 750-800. These companies can offer such prices because they get foreign funding. We do not have that luxury,” says Radhakrishna Holla, President of Bengaluru Tourist Taxi Owners Association

Radhakrishna Holla also says that this has been causing huge losses for the drivers as they have to bear the brunt of the companies’ efforts to gain market monopoly. The State government's rules were perfect but Uber has got the matter stayed after moving the double bench at the Karnataka High Court again, he says.

“The customers will obviously opt for cabs that offer lesser prices. Also, now everyone equates cab service to Ola and Uber. Meru cabs’ business has gone down by almost 50%. Karnataka State Tourism Development Corporation is going to withdraw the provision of taxi service come March as announced by the Karnataka Minister of State for Information Technology and Tourism, Priyank Kharge. They will just drive us out of business,” says Hameed Akbar Ali, Operational Secretary, Karnataka City Taxi Association.

Ali also expressed concerns of taxi drivers having no choice but to work for the cab aggregators, and also points out that the drivers working for Ola and Uber have been facing a lot of issues lately.

“Many drivers have been complaining that they have not been getting their incentives from the companies. When Ola and Uber introduced the incentives, many of the drivers bought new cars. Now they have no choice but to work for them and suffer the injustice as they have to pay off the loans. Our problem is not with the drivers but with the policies of cab-aggregators,” Ali added.

Lakshmikanth, a driver who works for both Ola and Uber, says that the drivers are the ones bearing the brunt of the new prices for ferrying customers from the airport.

“The companies have reduced the prices of the rides drastically and to top it off, they are also taking a 25% cut off the meagre amount we make. We have no choice but to continue as we have loans to pay off,” he adds.

Lakshmikanth also says that the companies have been deducting their incentive amounts lately without communicating as to why they are doing so.

“Once a ride is booked, the map shows an estimated distance. Sometimes it is lesser than the distance shown, sometimes it is more. They deducted Rs 3,000 from my incentive amount and when I sent in a query, they said that it was because I had covered lesser distance than was shown on the map. They refuse to listen to our problems,” he added.

Hameed Akbar Ali also says that the Ola and Uber drivers are planning to go on a strike on December 30 and 31 to protest against drivers not obtaining promised incentives.

“The drivers have planned it strategically. On New Year’s Eve, many people go out for parties and also a lot of short distance rides are booked out of which they earn Rs 50-80. This is not profitable. Also, sometimes, some customers may end up vomiting. In city taxis, they will have to pay a penalty but it is not so for Ola and Uber. Whatever may be the reason, they have planned the strike on a strategic day,” he added.

While the Association members say that there will be a strike, Ola and Uber drivers said that there has only been talk of a strike but nothing concrete has been decided on.

“Some of the drivers want to go on the strike, while some of them want to drive as they want make money to be able to pay the EMI at the end of the month. Nothing has been decided for sure yet. We don’t know how things will pan out yet,” says Manjunath, a cab driver for Uber and Ola.

In response to queries, Uber, in its response said, "Uber has implemented a fare revision starting yesterday (Saturday) for airport to city trips. It has been changed to kilometre-based pricing which increases the driver's earnings by 22% at least."

Ola did not respond to our queries.

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