The relationship between ridesharing services like Uber and Bolt with its drivers has always been a fractious one. In recent months it has resulted in strikes and protests, and in specific instances, damage to property by drivers over the way that they have been treated by the companies.
While there are several aspects to the discontent, it has routinely stemmed from a lack of communication, driver safety and a lack of avenues for recourse.
The disagreements are ongoing, but there has been movement as far as reaching a resolution is concerned. This as the Gauteng Department of Roads and Transport has appointed a mediator to assist in negotiations between Uber/Bolt and its drivers.
Advocate Jenine Khan has been appointment and her selection comes after several meetings between the aforementioned stakeholders and Public Transport and Roads Infrastructure MEC, Jacob Mamabolo.
“She comes with the requisite skills and experience that we believe should help us move the process forward. As the department, we will give her all the support and we urge all parties to do the same in assisting her in the work she will be undertaking,” noted the MEC in a statement this week.
“The e-hailing industry is an important mode in the public transport mix, and as such, the provincial government has taken a direct interest in the resolution of these and related issues. We continue to call for all stakeholders to follow the principle of negotiation when trying to resolve problems,” Mamabolo added.
The outcomes of these negotiations could prove crucial, as drivers in the Free State and Western Cape joined their Gauteng counterparts for strike action taken in March this year. As such, the resolution found here may set a precedent for other provinces.
Of equal interest is how content drivers will be over the situation. The fight to get recognised as employees instead of contractors has been an issue ever since Uber first launched in South Africa. We have also seen drivers in other parts of the world, and most notably California, failed to be recognised.
As such, it remains to be seen whether this is simply a measure to appease drivers in the short term or whether their long terms needs will be addressed too.