Motorcycle taxi drivers demand gov’t shut down ride-hailing companies if they don’t improve work conditions

Motorcycle taxi drivers working for ride-hailing services Go-Jek and Grab demonstrate at a protest demanding higher tariffs in Jakarta on April 21, 2018. Photo: Lambe Ojol / Instagram
Motorcycle taxi drivers working for ride-hailing services Go-Jek and Grab demonstrate at a protest demanding higher tariffs in Jakarta on April 21, 2018. Photo: Lambe Ojol / Instagram

While plenty of investors are pouring millions of dollars in funding into regional ride-hailing giants Go-Jek and Grab, many “partner” drivers working for the app-based transportation services feel like they’re getting left in the dust in terms of treatment and some of them are now advocating for the government to shut their employers down if they don’t improve work conditions.

Media reports estimated that a few hundred of the two companies’ motorcycle taxi drivers (referred to locally as online ojek) were demonstrating collectively at Grab Indonesia’s office in Kuningan, South Jakarta, this morning, causing congestion on Jalan Rasuna Said.

It’s the latest in a long line of demonstrations of varying sizes held by online ojeks to protest both their perceived low pay and the obligations placed on them by their employers. What seemed to be new at today’s rally, which was organized by Gerakan Hantam Aplikasi Nakal (which can be translated to the Naughty Application Fighting Movement), were calls to have the government shut down the ride-hailing companies if they did not improve conditions for drivers.

“If our demands are not fulfilled, then we will ask the central government to immediately close and expel all applications that tyrannize the people and immediately prepare a professional online transportation application that is fair, transparent and creates prosperity for the people,” said Dedi Heriyantoni, a spokesperson at the demo, as quoted by CNN Indonesia.

Those demands include an end to the exploitation of driver “partners” through low wages and excessive labor obligations. They also demanded that Go-Jek and Grab not be allowed to maintain a monopoly on the online transportation market so they could continue to treat drivers unfairly.

The demo organizers said that another protest was scheduled for tomorrow at Go-Jek’s head office in Blok M, South Jakarta, and estimated around 1,000 drivers would take part. Neither Grab nor Go-Jek has put out statements regarding these most recent rallies.

Before the start of the Asian Games, online ojek groups threatened massive disruptive strikes timed to coincide with the start of the massive sporting event being hosted in Indonesia, but those plans failed to materialize after both companies made small increases to their tariff rates.

While the chances of the government shutting down either Go-Jek or Grab over driver protests is slim to none, the probability that drivers will continue to protest seems high. And with an excess of labor supply and both companies fiercely competiting for market share through low prices, it seems unlikely the dynamic will change anytime soon.

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