Uber drivers strike in Indonesia

Mass meeting of striking Uber drivers in Jakarta (image via PPAS Jakarta)

23 Aug 2017 – Hundreds of Uber drivers have been on strike in Indonesia in a dispute over what they describe as “modern slavery” practices by the firm.

Around 200 drivers rallied in the Indonesian capital Jakarta on Sunday. There were solidarity actions in other cities including Bogor and Surabaya, while drivers far from the management offices turned off their apps in solidarity.

Following on from two protests in May, Sunday’s stop-work protests were the third day of actions in an ongoing dispute over pay and conditions.

The drivers have organised themselves into the KUMAN drivers collective, which has received support in building their organisation from the anarcho-syndicalist PPAS, as well as legal advice from LBH Jakarta.

The drivers believe they face the same main grievances that have led to protest action in cities from New York to Melbourne and in Lagos: Uber unilaterally determining basic pay rates and the lack of clarity of the drivers’ employment status.

The drivers issued a list of 14 demands, including a basic rate of 2,500 Rupiah (£0.15/$0.19) per km, an end to high commissions and fees taken by the company, and the provision of office administration and safety support.

Low pay has a severe effect effect on the drivers, who are unable to maintain their vehicles and sometimes struggle to afford fuel. One driver said that after doing a 24 hour shift working from one morning to the next he had only earnt Rp 130,000 (£7.60/$10).

Most drivers eat only once a day and sometimes lose money during a shift after Uber take 10% of their fare combined with fines for cancellations.

Due to low rates, Uber is a side job for some drivers. Others are moving to competing companies paying rates that are 50-100% higher, and often guaranteeing that driver will not lose money.

With Uber, responsibility is on the driver. Another common problem for drivers are the promotional rates of up to 100% which Uber forces drivers to offer.

A delegation of 10 drivers have met with management, but were denied access for their legal advisor. Uber management also confiscated phones and prohibited recordings of the talks.

Management have so far met only one of the drivers’ 14 demands. The drivers, who use a system of recallable delegates, held a mass meeting on Tuesday to discuss the concession and next steps in the dispute.

Drivers are suspicious of management promises and are planning further industrial action should Uber not accede to their demands within 2 weeks.

Grassroots union activists from PPAS in Jakarta have called for international solidarity actions at Uber offices, and a day of international solidarity has been called for 9 September.

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