This article first appeared in Forbes Africa and is republished with its permission. Subscribe today by contacting Shanna Jacobsen [email protected]
Five hundred Uber drivers in South Africa have joined the South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union (SATAWU) because, they say, they are exploited by the cut price taxi company. They also plan to take the company to the labour court.
There are more than 4,000 Uber drivers operating in South Africa, with 2,500 operating in Gauteng alone amid violence and backlash from drivers.
The e-hailing service’s safety standards were also called into question after its drivers were attacked and intimidated in Johannesburg and Cape Town by a cluster of metered taxi drivers, who fear that Uber is crippling their businesses.
READ: Africa's richest-square-mile Uber drivers attacked - CNBC Africa
Uber takes a cut from every trip; for Uber X it’s 20 per cent and Uber Black, 25 per cent.
“They take a quarter of what I make every trip. They’re treating us like rubbish. We are not even involved in the running of the business yet we are the so-called ‘driver-partners,’” says Joseph Munzvenga, an Uber driver in Cape Town, who has been with Uber for two and a half years.
READ: Inside Uber: "Africa is our latest expansion priority"
“I joined because we didn’t have to deal with cash and admin and they also promised us to be our own boss and get a chance to earn up to R10,000 ($650).We have to work long hours for little income. The cost of living is too much we’re not benefitting anything from Uber. It just came to Africa to abuse Africans,” he says.
“Exploitation is an understatement. When people are desperate they will do anything, when a firm like Uber has you tuned into the channel of desperation you are bound to be exploited. The sad part is most drivers still don't realise just how much they are being exploited,” says Julian Wenn, another Uber driver in Cape Town.
The drivers plan to take Uber to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).
“We joined SATAWU because they have resources to help us fight Uber. They [Uber] can dismiss an individual but cannot dismiss an entity,” says Munzvenga.