Taxi drivers who work on ride-sharing platforms are banding together to lobby for better working conditions as they fear the industry will soon collapse.
The drivers are creating a cooperative and have already attracted the interest of hundreds of their fellow drivers working in the gig economy.
“If we don’t do something soon, there won’t be many Maltese drivers left in this sector and those who remain in the industry will be working in increasingly poor conditions. It’s getting worse and worse,” said driver Aron Gatt. Malta weather.
The co-op will represent drivers of Y-plate taxis used on ridesharing platforms such as Bolt and newcomer Uber, as well as ridesharing apps such as Cool. This will not include white cabs, which have long had their own representation to successfully lobby authorities in the past.
Drivers working on apps, however, say they are in a dry rush and unable to push for a change individually.
Flanked by other rig drivers, Gatt says when he was first approached about working in the industry, it sounded appealing.
So much so that he made a considerable investment, as most drivers in the service do.
He could choose his own hours and the returns seemed reasonable.
But his colleague Ritianne Attard says that while the passenger market – the number of people looking for rides – has increased only slightly, the number of drivers has exploded.
As drivers compete for a smaller and smaller slice of the same pie, they must spend longer hours on the road to earn the money they first earned by working “human” hours.
“We’re getting to a point where some drivers are working very long periods – even 18 hours behind the wheel – to earn enough,” Attard said.
Drivers also face the possibility of abusive customers.
Complaints to the respective platforms are often ignored and persistent drivers have been barred from being able to work through the app, they said.
Drivers also want to introduce basic quality standards.
“To get a business license you have to drive in Malta for five years. But we hear stories of drivers who don’t even know where parts of the country are. We say we have to have standards in this sector,” Attard said.
The drivers were inspired by the recent action of food couriers protesting over wages and working conditions.
Food couriers went on strike last month saying they are only paid €2.10 per delivery and only manage to make around 10 deliveries a day, working 11 hour days.
Despite their objections, couriers working with one of the major platforms, Bolt food, will not earn more money per delivery, the company confirmed this month.
The taxi drivers hope that by uniting they can push for better terms. They will also be able to put pressure on the authorities and lodge complaints on behalf of the drivers with the police.
Drivers interested in joining the fledgling cooperative can email [email protected] or call a dedicated mobile number 79350631.
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