Organizer says ‘2 million’ motorcycle taxi drivers will strike at start of Asian Games if fares are not raised

Flocks of sports fans are expected to be coming to the Asian Games’ host cities of Jakarta and Palembang for the enormous regional athletic competition beginning on August 18. Plenty of people in those two cities will be relying on app based ride-hailing services Go-Jek and Grab to help them get around the traffic-choked streets around the games, but a major demonstration by ojol (short for “ojek online”, the local term for app-based motorcycle taxis) might make that very difficult.

According to a statement from Igun Wicaksono, a member of the Two Wheel Action Movement Presidium (Garda), an ojol activist group, ojeks across the country are planning on holding a massive demonstration at the start of the 2018 Asian Games if their demands for higher minimum tariffs and better legal protections are not met before then.

“That’s the final deadline, if until (the start of the Asian Games) the government has not given us a decision regarding the struggle of online ojeks to improve the tariffs then thousands of online ojeks from all over Indonesia will strike simultaneously,” Igun said as quoted by CNN Indonesia today.

Igun said the Asian Games would be an ideal setting for getting the ojol’s message maximum coverage and urged the government to help set higher tariffs before the games starts.

“The government prefers to protect its investors’ rather than the interests of the lives of the millions of people who work as ojek online. (Hence) this massive and national protest is the last resort if our demands cannot be fulfilled,” Igun said.

For months, online ojek drivers have been holding demonstrations to get the government and ride-hailing operators to increase the minimum tariffs for ojek rides, which are currently set at just around IDR1,600 (US$0.12) per kilometer. Drivers have demanded tariffs in the range of IDR3,000 to 4,000 as well as minimal order prices of IDR10,000.

During a major demonstration in front of the Presidential Palace in April involving thousands of drivers, President Joko Widodo himself met with representatives from the driver’s side and instructed his transportation and IT ministers to meet with representatives of Go-Jek and Grab to find a solution. The companies made tentative promises to increase their tariffs upon review, but have yet to make any major rate hikes, claiming that increases in fares would lead to lower demand and lower overall salaries for drivers.

Both Go-Jek and Grab have raised billions of dollars in investments to fuel their competition for market share in Indonesia and throughout the region, with Go-Jek raising over USD1 billion this year alone from numerous investors including Google.

While one might wonder if there are even 2 million ojols in Indonesia that could  participate in such a strike, Go-Jek does claim to work with over one million partner drivers in Indonesia, while Grab claims to have over 2 million drivers spread across their markets in the region.

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