Wednesday, June 22, 2016

By Express News Service   21st June 2016 

CHENNAI: Monday morning saw nearly 250 odd drivers plying on the Ola platform gather in front of the online cab aggregator's office to protest a multitude of issues - including current tariffs and incentive structures.

More significant however, was the fact that it is the first such protest actively backed by a national trade union, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU). More than 500 Ola drivers are expected to join the CITU Chennai Metropolitan Motor Vehicle Drivers' Union Tuesday.

The cab aggregator segment seems set, finally, to see the full fledged entry of unions into a segment that has so far shunned widespread unionisation.

According to P Anbazhagan, CITU district secretary, trade union representative during the protest, the union would help Ola drivers mobilise and bargain from a position of strength. "We will primarily help them from an organisation. So far, they have protested on a small scale, without much planning behind it. They have been impromptu demonstrations and unorganised. We will enable them to take their demands forward systematically and according to due process," he told Express.

This is not the first time that the Ola Chennai office has seen

drivers gather to demand resolution of issues. A few months ago, around 20 drivers along with their supporters took up delayed payments of transactions done on Ola money. According to drivers who attended that demonstration, mobilisation for the protest was managed through Whatsapp and by word of mouth.

"We even set up an unofficial Ola Drivers' Union and were planning to register it. But it was not working out, which is why we decided to enter the CITU fold. The move will give us clout and allow us to negotiate from a position of strength," said M Bhupathy, one of the drivers who will be joining the CITU on Tuesday.

Another driver, J Dass, who put together the petition about a month ago demanding better facilities for the drivers, said he felt glad that this time around there was a bigger union that was participating in the fight against the company. "We already have an association of our own, but if the CITU asks us then we can all join together, that way we will be able to force the comapny to fulfil our demands as soon as possible," he told Express.

The prime demand of the drivers include star rating based customer feedback system be delinked from their incentives and removed altogether, the Rs 100 cancellation payment for drivers if a booking is cancelled after the driver reaches the customer and toll rates to be charged from customers.

However, the crux of the demands revolve around increasing the fares for all categories of cabs from current levels, which drivers say are unrealistically low. "We do not want incentives either. The surge pricing issue makes customers give us low ratings, after which we do not get good incentives anyway," pointed out Bhupathy.

While this move in joining the CITU is likely to be a first where a major trade union is involving itself, Kerala has already seen an union of all online cab drivers gaining traction since March.

However, M. Shiva an Ola auto driver said, "We don't want any union. I feel being in union we will be unable to get our demands across. We want to work independent of any union or anything."

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