Uber India has reportedly offered no help to thousands of its driver partners in light of the suspension of its services due to the coronavirus pandemic. Thousands of these drivers are now left staring at the prospect of not having any pay until normal services are resumed, for which no date has been confirmed on Uber India’s official blog.
Amit Kumar, a driver partner for Uber India in the Delhi NCR (national capital region) area, confirmed to News18 that services in all of Delhi NCR have been suspended as of today, with the company having told its drivers that the suspension will last until at least March 31. Kumar says, “There is no such help or assistance that the company has offered any of its drivers, and we have been told to fend for ourselves. Most of us are sitting idle at home, and only a very few of us have managed to find alternate employment with either news publications or medical organisations.”
The situation is seemingly the same for drivers working with Olacabs as well. A second cab driver, who presently drives with Olacabs and wished to not be named, stated, “We have to fend for our present situation because we are not directly employed with the company. This leaves us in a position where we have to look for alternate options to earn money during this period, but the moment we take out our cars, the police direct us to return back home with them. Right now, we do not have a clear way out.”
Reports detailing Olacabs’ driver related initiatives state that the company is offering up to Rs 30,000 worth of floater medical insurance, along with free medical help and doctor consultations. However, no reports have revealed any details about any financial aid that Olacabs may be extending to its remaining drivers. A spokesperson for the company could not be immediately contacted by News18, and the story will be updated if the company offers an updated statement or strategy.
News18 reached out to Uber India for a statement on the matter. In response to the queries, Uber India directed us to a statement by Andrew Macdonald, senior vice president of rides and platforms at Uber, who states, “We are providing financial assistance to anyone who drives or delivers with Uber and is diagnosed with COVID-19 or placed in individual quarantine by a public health authority. This assistance is now available worldwide.”
Clarifying the financial help, a statement by Uber India on the matter says, “We will provide drivers and delivery persons with financial assistance for up to 14 days if they actively drive or deliver with Uber and get diagnosed with COVID-19 or are personally placed in quarantine by a public health authority.”
Explaining the amount of financial support that Uber will extend to its drivers, the company’s official blog states, “To ensure our financial assistance fairly meets the needs of everyone who uses our platform to earn, the amount of assistance you receive will be based on your average daily earnings over the last six months. If you have been on Uber’s platform for less than six months, your average earnings will be based on how much you have earned in the time between your first trip and March 6, 2020.”
When Kumar was asked about whether the monthly installments, which many of Uber’s drivers pay the company towards the car that they drive, have been called off in light of the COVID-19 crisis, he said that no such announcement has been made by Uber India so far. He further ascertained that over the past weeks, even as the COVID-19 outbreak escalated in India, the company did not roll back the “25 to 30 percent incentive” that it charges its drivers, which too may have gone some distance towards extending financial assistance to the Indian driver partners.
Uber India is also yet to reveal what steps they are adopting for the vast majority of their drivers and delivery partners, who have not been put in quarantine or tested positive for COVID-19. A part of Uber India’s statement, shared with News18, says, “The circumstances surrounding COVID-19 are changing rapidly and we expect they will continue to do so over the coming weeks and months ahead. To ensure we are responsive to this reality, this policy is effective until April 6, 2020, at which time we will reassess the situation and release a go-forward policy.”
Uber India and Olacabs’ driver partners are not employees of the companies, and as a result, do not come under having a monthly fixed minimum wage of any sort. They are deemed as independent contractors, who go without any guarantee or assurance of support in most cases. With a majority of India’s on-contract drivers being dependent on their daily earnings to make ends meet, the focus will remain on what steps do Uber and Olacabs take in terms of millions of their drivers globally, who may be facing the prospect of financial despair at the worst possible time.