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Kenya’s digital taxi drivers seek worker benefits after landmark U.K. ruling

Digital taxi drivers in Kenya are seeking worker benefits following a landmark ruling relating to the treatment of the drivers by companies in the U.K. Following the Supreme Court ruling to have digital taxi drivers defined as employees of the ride hailing app as opposed to contractual workers, Kenyan drivers want comparable terms. “This ruling in the UK affirms what we have always been saying. Digital taxi drivers are workers and not independent contractors as purported by the owners of the application,” said Wycliffe Alutalala the Secretary General to the Digital Partners Society (DPS). The drivers now want Labour CS Simon Chelugui to lead the push for the recognition of players in the space as they seek to use the recognition to arrive at better working terms. Under the recognition as workers, the drivers expect to derive benefits including enhanced payment terms, statutory benefits like NHIF and NSSF and work-injury compensation. Further, the digital drivers are pushing for the regulation of industry even as proposed laws remain stuck in the legislation process at the National Assembly.

“As the driver community, we have been very patient with the government as it tells us that these are new technologies. Six years down the line , we believe the industry is no longer new and the application owners can’t continue minting billions as drivers take home nothing,” added Alutalala. The local digital taxi operators have remained at logger heads with ride hailing companies including Uber and Bolt largely over driver compensation. In 2018 for instance, drivers staged an 11 day strike that culminated in a memorandum of association (MOU) between the parties and government. Nevertheless, drivers still tell of increased suffering with the ride hailing applications fro instance slashing base prices to leave the drivers with emaciated margins.

Currently, the driver community has an outstanding suit from 2017 from which they sued the application over price cuts. Without the existence of local rules, the driver community continues to strive to have their concerns addressed with their service level agreements with firms such as Uber and Bolt for instance falling in the jurisdiction of the Netherlands and Estonia. President to the Digital Taxi Forum (DTF) John Kimani warns drivers are becoming destitute as application owners milk them dry. “The longer legislation takes time, the longer the drivers hurt. People are losing vehicles to auctioneers, drivers are dying of fatigue and are getting hopeless and desperate,” he said. Across in the UK, digital taxi drivers are now entitled to minimum wage benefits and holiday pay after a long-running legal battle by the operators challenging the model of the gig economy from which firms like Uber have rejected drivers under its platform at part of employees. The firm along its peers has faced similar backlash in other jurisdictions including New York and California in the US. – citizen.co.ke