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Hyderabad: Uber drivers complain that company reneged on its promises

"The drivers quit their regular jobs and join Uber by purchasing a new taxi. Each of them was paid Rs 5,000 as joining incentive and another Rs 5,000 was paid to the driver for each reference which he made but Uber reneged on all other promises it made to the drivers,’’ Nizamuddin said.

Written by Sreenivas Janyala | Hyderabad |
Updated: September 4, 2015 10:24:59 pm

Uber Cabs in Hyderabad is in fresh trouble. A delegation of drivers working with Uber called on Home and Labour Minister Nayani Narasimha Reddy on Friday seeking Telangana Government’s intervention to make Uber management fulfill their promise. Led by Telangana State Cabs and Bus Operators Association (TSCBOA) President Syed Nizamuddin, the Uber drivers said that the issue involves the lives of over 15,000 drivers. They complained to the Home Minister that drivers, who were working with different cab operators, were lured by Uber Cabs.

“The drivers quit their regular jobs and join Uber by purchasing a new taxi. Each of them was paid Rs 5,000 as joining incentive and another Rs 5,000 was paid to the driver for each reference which he made but Uber reneged on all other promises it made to the drivers,’’ Nizamuddin said. “The company promised business of at least Rs 70,000 per month. The offer was so lucrative that thousands of drivers purchased taxis by borrowing huge loans on high interests. Many of them sold their house or wife’s jewelry to buy the taxi. With the promise made by Uber, the drivers were hopeful of repaying the entire loan amount in less than six months,’’ Nizamuddin said.

However, Nizamuddin said, Uber’s strategy to lure drivers was not aimed at helping them. “They wanted to destabilize the regular tour operators in the city who are associated with the service industry, especially the Information Technology sector. Due to the sudden pull-out, the regular operators faced shortage of over 15,000 drivers and therefore, they were unable to provide promised service to their clients. Uber achieved its goal of sabotaging the organized tour operators. However, they left the drivers to their fate,’’ he said.

The drivers complained that Uber reduced the incentives and other payments to drivers and also started collecting 20 per cent commission. They also started deducting amounts if any customer cancels his booking. “While Uber’s actions have put the lives of over 15,000 drivers at stake, they pushed the regular operators into deep financial crisis leading to closure of several travel businesses,” said Nizamuddin.

The TSCBOA leaders, including Venkatesh Goud, Rajshekar Reddy, Satyanarayana, Narsimha and Arunkanth Reddy, also pointed out that regular operators pay all taxes to the Transport Department, being an aggregator but Uber is not liable to pay anything to the government. They simply collect their commissions and book profits. They also briefed the Home Minister about Uber management’s refusal to negotiate with the drivers on the issues concerning them. “The drivers are simply requesting the Uber management to honour its promise. However, they are using all tactics to subside the issue,” they said.

Nizamuddin said the Home Minister has been urged to intervene into the matter and direct the officials to take necessary action in this regard. Further, he has been requested to frame some rules to regulate the aggregators who are sabotaging the organized industry while putting thousands of jobs and lives at risk. Nayani Narasimha Reddy has assured to look into the issue by holding a review meeting with the officials of departments concerned. The Uber drivers also submitted separate representations to Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, and Transport Minister Mahender Reddy and the Transport Commissioner.

According to Nizamuddin, Uber is already facing several charges in Hyderabad, including cancelling books at the last minute by drivers associated with it because they just didn’t feel like driving at that time; or drivers who said they had other priorities at that time although they took the booking. Recently, a 27-year-old businessman from Secunderabad lodged a complaint with the Begumpet police against an Uber cab driver, alleging that the driver assaulted him and misbehaved with his female friend, when he suggested which route to take to the destination.

“Although the driver agreed to the booking, he was upset that he was getting late to attend some function. He was also upset that the ride fare was less then Rs 150 although he was entitled incentive from Uber. When the passenger suggested which route he can take to reach the destination quickly, he got upset and allegedly started misbehaving with the passengers. We are investigating. Uber has terminated contract with that driver,’’ an official said.

According to Nizamuddin, many IT employees who were acquainted and became friendly with cab drivers who regularly picked and dropped them agreed to pay down payments and allowed the drivers to take loans in their names to purchase cars and join Uber Cabs, were left in the lurch as the drivers were unable to pay the instalments that were due to the loan accounts of IT employees using whose documents and bank account statements they purchased the cars to be used as Uber cabs.

“If a customer complains that the driver was late or any other such issue, driver’s incentives are stopped for one week. The driver, most of them are illiterates are asked to send an email to give their version which they are mostly unable to do so. The Uber management at Hyderabad agreed to talk with the drivers last week but failed to turn up. They are saying, if you want work it is fine otherwise you are free to leave,’’ Nizamuddin said.

“Where will drivers who purchased new vehicles trusting Uber will go? What are they supposed to do now?’’ Nizamuddin said. Siddharth Shanker, GM Hyderabad, Uber, said in a statement: “This week, 20-30 driver partners, less than 0.5 per cent of our entire base of driver partners in Hyderabad, expressed their concerns and sought clarification on payment processes. In fact, we have a robust system and process in place to address these and our local team in Hyderabad is already working with those driver partners on an individual basis to help resolve any issues. The actual number of driver partners who expressed concerns is far less than the 500 that has been incorrectly reported. In fact, over 90 per cent of the crowd involved in these demonstrations is in no way affiliated to Uber. These individuals, that number in the hundreds, are being directed to incite unrest by groups with vested interests who too have absolutely nothing to do with Uber. As described earlier, Uber has a system in place to support and address concerns of driver-partners attached to our platform and our team is committed to doing that. However, we will not engage with or entertain the demands of any individuals that are not attached to our platform.’’

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