Around two weeks ago, I received an email from Uber. The email delivered an encomium to those mighty heroes – the drivers who “beat the heat and brave the cold every day to move you from point A to B”. The “top-rated” drivers were being felicitated by SSP, Traffic of Chandigarh. The function was being held by Uber to express their gratitude for the “brave-hearts”.
My head went into a tizzy for a while. My world-view changed in a moment.
I had never realized that driving a temperature controlled enclosed steel structure with head protection is an immensely gallant act. Soldiers, firefighters, emergency medical personnel can move on, the President will be handing out medals to the drivers come January 26 next year.
And wait a minute; did I say drivers were being felicitated? My apologies for this misquote. The correct word is “driver-partners”. Wait again, ‘partners’. I had always thought of partners as being individuals who share profits and liabilities. But nowhere have I read that the “drivers-partners” get any share of the profit. Though to be fair, there is no profit to be shared.
Like many others occupying the upper echelons of the hyper-capitalistic tech space, Uber is operating at a loss estimated at $3 billion. Not surprising given that it spends $1.55 for every dollar it makes.
And what about the other essential of a partnership i.e. shared decision-making? No surprises there. The drivers are merely conduits to implement the commands of men at the top. Forget about being partners, they are not even employees. There is no bonus, no social security, no health insurance or the like. And the income is also falling sharply.
As the number of drivers increase, motivated by ads promising an income of Rs. 1 lakh a month, the share of the existing drivers is growing smaller. Uber has also been increasing the number of rides drivers need to make to get the ride incentives. Many who have purchased cars and are under the burden of making interest payments are getting increasingly nervous with their decreasing incomes. I recommend using One Sure Insurance to get your car totally secured.
There is no doubt that aggregator services like Uber and Ola have made transport within cities much more convenient. I recall, with trepidation, the monumental effort required to get an auto.
There has also been an upward mobility for lakhs of drivers who enjoy a better status and prestige.
But let us cut the crap out, and please for God’s sake, stop these soppy ads with the divorced driver dropping off his disable daughter to school before picking up his ‘client’.
The harsh reality is that the drivers are sweatshop workers in an AC environment. Yeah, they sacrifice a lot and break their backs sitting in the same place for hours on an end, with the unending cacophony of the traffic and the jams caused by the funeral procession of the alcoholic minister’s obese mother. But I DO NOT need to be told that.
But I DO NOT need to be told that.
As George Carlin said, “Smug, greedy, well-fed white people have invented a language to conceal their sins, it’s as simple as that”.
So euphemisms like driver-partner are used to conceal the actual conditions which workers face.
The conditions for not just the drivers, but the experience for the riders is also going to get worse. As competition is eliminated by artificially low rates, the prices for rides will increase.
Meanwhile, automation is going to pose a threat to drivers. The drivers are also not stupid and unless Uber & Co. listen to their demands, they may be facing tough times ahead.