Kenyan Uber, Bolt Drivers Seek Recognition as Employees after UK Ruling

taxi hailing companies
A user scans for an available vehicle using the Uber Technologies Inc.'s app on an Apple Inc. iPhone 5 smartphone in this arranged photograph in London, U.K., on Friday, May 30, 2014. London's taxis are planning a 10,000-cab protest next month, as professional drivers across Europe demonstrate growing opposition to the Uber app. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Kenyan digital taxi drivers are now seeking employee benefits after a landmark ruling in the UK declared Uber drivers as workers.

The Supreme court declared that Uber drivers are employees as opposed to contractual workers, and should be treated as such. Now Kenyan taxi drivers signed on various apps including Uber, Bolt, and Little Cab are demanding similar terms.

“This ruling in the UK affirms what we have always been saying. Digital taxi drivers are workers and not independent contractors as purported by the owners of the application,” said Wycliffe Alutalala the Secretary-General to the Digital Partners Society (DPS).

Read: How Promise of Hefty Returns Lured Thousands of Uber Drivers to Debt

Recognition of digital taxi drivers as employees will give them access to benefits such as better payment terms, statutory payments including NSSF, NHIF as well as work-injury compensation.

The drivers want Labour Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui to push for their recognition as they seek better working terms.

Digital Taxi Operators have for a long time differed with ride-hailing companies citing low driver compensation.

Read also: Uber Protests Proposed 15 Percent Commission Cap on Trips

“As the driver community, we have been very patient with the government as it tells us that these are new technologies. Six years down the line, we believe the industry is no longer new and the application owners can’t continue minting billions as drivers take home nothing,” added Alutalala.

The government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the parties in 2018 after the drivers downed their tools for 11 days. However, nothing much seems to have come out of it as the drivers complain of continued suffering as the apps continually slash riding costs.

Lack of local rules means that the drivers are bound to their service level agreements with jurisdiction in the Netherlands and Estonia for Uber and Bolt respectively.

Read also: Bolt Introduces Low-cost Service, Bolt-Go, In South Africa

Digital Taxi Forum (DTF) Chairman John Kimani said that the application owners are milking drivers dry.

“The longer legislation takes time, the longer the drivers hurt. People are losing vehicles to auctioneers, drivers are dying of fatigue and are getting hopeless and desperate,” he said.

The Supreme court ruling in the UK now means that digital taxi drivers are entitled to minimum wage benefits and holiday pay.

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Written by Vanessa Murrey

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