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Driver strike hits cab services in Chennai


(G.N.S) Dt. 03
Cab availability on technology enabled aggregators like Ola and Uber took a hit on Wednesday following a work strike in the city by drivers demanding better working conditions and remunerations for serving on these platforms.
For many months now, drivers have held protests against dwindling incentives and rising performance-linked remunerations paid by these aggregators.
C Boopathy, one of the functionaries with the Centre for Indian Trade Unions (CITU), said nearly one thousand drivers had gathered at the venue in Chepauk in solidarity with the spirit of the protests. “Among our demands are better working conditions for cab drivers. We want restrictions on the number of hours the drivers work. On some days, it goes up to 16 hours.” CITU, a leftist outfit, had been associated with many driver agitations held recently.
Many drivers, who spoke on conditions of anonymity fearing retribution by the cab companies, recounted stories of having made to work without breaks for several hours together. Earlier, about a few years ago, Ola and Uber had doled out incentives for cab drivers to provide their services on their platforms. Both platforms run a tiered incentive system, wherein the extent of incentivisation is inversely proportional to the supply in a particular area. The idea was to increase cab presence in areas where demand outstripped supply. Invariably, cab drivers across these platforms said their earnings for the same amount of work has significantly decreased, although both these companies Ola and Uber have introduced retention initiatives like health plans and so on.
While Ola and Uber have grown in Chennai despite the sporadic protests such as the one today, UTOO, another tech platform begun by Aircel founded C Sivasankaran, has cut its business to a bare minimum. It is now running about 200 cabs even as it rethinks its business model. According to insiders, a tweak in business model demanding drivers that they pay a subscription fee for being on the UTOO platform proved unappetising for the drivers. Other cab firms such as NTLBSE 1.24 % and Fast Track, which had been running a thriving business before Ola and Uber entered late in 2013 and 2014, respectively, have also been unable to expand their businesses.

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