For the second time in three days, hundreds of Uber drivers held protests at the Hyderabad International Conventional Centre, just outside the online taxi company’s Hyderabad headquarters.
The protests come less than two months after Uber’s announcement that it would invest 50 million dollars in Hyderabad over the next five years to establish a facility for its employees.
Drivers, who claim to be working with Uber, are being led by a man named Syed Nizammudin, who heads the Telangana Cabs and Bus Operators' Association (TCBOA). They have been at loggerheads with the company because the latter allegedly unscrupulously cut down on incentives for existing drivers and kept hiring new drivers.
“When most of us joined Uber we were told we would be given money for referring others, we were also promised incentives. From earning Rs 25,000- 30,000 per week (including fuel charges) when we first started working with Uber, now most of us earn just Rs 7,000- 15,000 per week,” Nizammudin said.
According to the protesting drivers, the decreased earnings were due to Uber’s hiring policies. “They have hired too many drivers. Many drivers took loans, mortgaged what they had to buy new cars, and now there are too many taxis and less rides for each taxi,” he says.
The first protest was held on Tuesday, following which Uber promised to address their demands in 48 hours, says Nizammudin.
“They used to give Rs 300 as incentive, now they're giving just Rs 150. How can they cut down on what was promised?” asks Shankar, another driver at the protest.
According to another driver Ali, “Another problem we're facing is that if a customer complains, they cut our incentives for a week. How is that fair? If someone asks me to drive to Chilkur Balaji at 12 am when I have a family to look after and I reject it, how can they cut my incentives for a week? They don't even see that the customer may be at fault sometimes. They should take both parties into consideration.”
At one point of time the sloganeering became louder and two hoardings, one of Ola and the other of Uber, caught their attention. In minutes the hoardings were taken down with chants of ‘Uber, down, down’.
An Uber spokesperson told The News Minute that the disgruntled protestors represented just a miniscule of the number of people working with the company in the city.
“Over 99% of driver partners on the Uber platform are thriving as a new breed of entrepreneurs. They are very happy being able to take advantage of Uber's pioneering lead generation technology, that provides unprecedented flexibility, earning potential and the ability to be their own bosses. Less than 0.5% of our base of driver partners in Hyderabad today expressed some concerns regarding temporary incentives. Our teams are working with driver partners on an individual basis to help address any concerns,” the spokesperson said.
With no solution in sight, the drivers have now threatened to go on hunger strike.