What an Uber Driver Told Me

It is a Tuesday morning and I have a meeting in Upper Hill area and best option for transport is my favourite app, Uber. Since Uber came into our lives, they have improved drastically. I can help my mother get to her shopping or outings very easily and pick her at my convenience. We spend a reasonable amount on the fare and so far almost all drivers have been pleasant and efficient.

However it has been almost a month, since especially the ChapChap cars are filthy and in very poor condition, you are not sure if you really are going to make it to your destination. Since the app is cool and efficient you encourage the driver and give him a 4 out of 5.

Their morale is however not that high. When I ordered my ride home he asked me if I was going to pay cash or card because things are thick. I said cash and he came to pick me. He apologized for being upfront about payment but it was not his fault they are all suffering. His main problem was the fact that the fuel price fluctuations do not let them make up for price adjustments and there is almost no assistance from Uber to factor in their commissions. According to him there are 5 tycoons running the app and they are pocketing almost KES 40 Million per day and he is wondering why they are not even getting decent rights such as healthcare or rest. He said about 20 drivers died in just one month because of exhaustion and lack of sleep. They are not able to spend time with their families and are busy chasing the loan repayments which are piling up. When Uber started they were good and even with other competitors it has never reached such dire straits as now.

When I asked him if they have a union or association that can address especially their health issues, he was clear that they have tried to go to COTU or even join a labour union based in California, but someone from the top pays off the leader and they all come tumbling down. Uber is not far from being classified as a sophisticated matatu mafia operation.

While I believe there are always two sides to a story, it would be great to hear what is really going on and why such interruptions end up hurting the children of the drivers to such an extent? Surely we can rise up to better working conditions or self-employment benefits?

Harleen Jabbal