Why are Uber drivers unhappy at the moment?

Uber drivers in Bristol came together today (March 30) to protest about their treatment by the company. It is a growing fact that drivers are unhappy, and many are turning to rival companies such as Bolt which have grown in popularity over the past 12 months.

Earlier in the day, around 25 drivers gathered at Uber’s headquarters in Stoke’s Croft, Bristol, to make a point to their employer. The main issues raised were surrounding pay, driver safety, and unfair dismissals of drivers within the city.

The App Drivers and Couriers Union (ADCU) was behind the latest protest with the organiser Asad Uzzaman claiming that “they keep lying to us”. This is despite claims from Uber that drivers are getting paid more now than they were before the pandemic, and pledging to continue to work with the drivers’ union – which won a battle last year to get recognised by Uber.

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The protest began at 11am in Upper York Road, which connects Stokes Croft with Brunswick Square on the St Pauls side of the A38. A couple of dozen drivers filled the street with their taxis and staged a loud and sometimes raucous protest with placards and posters, demanding better treatment from Uber.

A ‘go-slow’ convoy was one of the highlights when drivers united and drove slowly down to The Centre and up Park Street and around the Clifton Triangle before returning back to Brunswick Square and causing traffic problems during the process.

Asad Uzzaman, organiser of the protest said: “We’re Uber drivers and we’ve been here on the platform for years – I’ve been here five years. The prices have been decreasing for the drivers. They keep lying to us.”

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He added: “They’ve now hidden the cost that customers are paying – before if it was 25 per cent commission, and the customer was paying £10 we should be getting £7.50, but now we’re getting £6, which is a lie according to our contracts.

“With the inflation of fuel prices, and everything going up, Uber fares are going down, so drivers are driving around for less than 50p a mile most of the time, but with the cost of the cars nowadays going up, with licensing authorities wanting newer and newer cars, more efficient cars and Clean Air Zones coming into Bristol, a lot of us do have to change our vehicles every so often, now we have to do a fitness test every six months – and with the expenses going up and affording these cars, it’s not possible on 50p a mile.

“A lot of the drivers are complaining that they are getting unfair dismissals, so a lot of the times when you are ordering an Uber, people are hit with inflation with surge prices over the weekend are quite high,” said Mr Uzzaman.

Uber drivers stage a protest at the company's Bristol headquarters in St Pauls
Uber drivers stage a protest at the company’s Bristol headquarters in St Pauls
(Image: Bristol Live)

He added: “If you’re on a night out and you’re having to pay £30 or £40 to get home, it is really high. But a lot of people are wanting a refund, and in order to do that, they’ll create a fake story, to try to get a refund from Uber,” he said, adding that Uber will block the account of a driver someone has complained about, but if that driver is cleared, there is no compensation for lost earnings.

“With a lot of drivers that have been blocked, it’s taken five or six weeks to get back onto the platform, these guys are sat at home for five or six weeks earning nothing and with bills to pay. Uber is charging the customers a fair price, but they are just not transactioning that on to the drivers themselves. They are keeping a majority of the profit, which they claim is 25 per cent, but we’ve got proof that it’s higher than that, it’s around the 40-50 per cent mark.”

A spokesperson for Uber said: “We are always looking at how we can help drivers reduce their costs and maximise their earnings. All eligible drivers on Uber are also guaranteed at least the National Living Wage, holiday pay and access to a pension plan. This means drivers earn with greater security, helping them to plan for their futures while maintaining the flexibility that is integral to the private-hire industry.”

The company also said it ‘regularly engages with GMB union representatives to look at how it can improve driver experience’. The company says that all Uber drivers in the UK receive: At least the National Living Wage after accepting a trip request and after expenses. “This is a floor and not a ceiling, with drivers able to earn more.”

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