E-hailing drivers secure first government-approved trade Union in Africa.

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Uber and Bolt drivers in Nigeria seem to have carved out a unified front for themselves to aid their well-being as well as address issues affecting their security as the Nigerian authorities gave the nod for the trade union AUATWN – Amalgamated Union of App-Based Transport Workers of Nigeria, to be registered, making the AUATWN a first; the first recognized trade Union for e-hailing drivers in Africa.

 

The approval came in a letter from the Trade Union Services, and Industrial Relations Department of the country’s Ministry of Labour and Employment.  Part of the letter reads:

“I am directed to refer to your application letter dated 27th April 2021, written pursuant to Section 3 of the Trade Unions Act, CAP. T14 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN), 2014, addressed to the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment for the Registration of the above-named organization as a trade union.

“I am further directed to inform you that after extensive consideration of your application, the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment has approved the registration of your organization as a Trade Union with rights and privileges as stipulated by the Trade Unions Act, cited above.”

                         

The Trade Unions Act, with this development, has empowered the AUATWN by law to help determine the terms and conditions of drivers working in any app-based transportation company.

 

The founding Secretary-General of the association, Comrade Ibrahim Ayoade, mentioned that the move to unionize app-based drivers began in 2016 when Uber cut the revenue of drivers to 40% without due consultations with them, this impelled him to mobilize drivers across the country to step up as a solid and united body seeking better working terms.

 

“We operate in the informal sector of the economy therefore we need protection from app-based companies. They use our expertise to make money for themselves without consulting us during important decision-making. But with a government-approved Union like AUATWN, all that will stop. We can now negotiate with them to recognize what we are passing through when we carry out our duties.” He said, adding that “App-based companies have leveraged on divide-and-rule methods to subjugate drivers for years but now we are regaining control of our network.”

 

The AUATWN Secretary-General also revealed that the union is a merger of three unions that existed hitherto into one unified block to protect the interests of Nigerian app-based drivers. The three bodies that blended include the National Union of Professional App-based Transport Workers (NUPA-BTW), the Professional E-hailing Drivers and Private Owners Association of Nigeria (PEDPAN) and the National Coalition of Ride-Sharing Partners (NACORP).

 

Uber and Bolt both pulled up on the shores of Africa bearing several gains and shortcomings. While drivers on the platforms enjoy the incomes, they have also suffered from several problems ranging from poor welfare to peculiar occupational hazards, and exploitation.

               

These inequalities have pushed drivers to push for some control, including the freedom to either decide their charges or get a better percentage of their income. In Ghana, drivers want to keep 85% of the fares while paying 15% to the app companies.

 

As the continent continues to embrace gig work, regarded as a side hustle because of its nature, there have been unceasing arguments on whether gig work should be regulated and unionized or not. But, in most parts of Africa, one man’s side hustle can be another man’s main survival source. This has made unionizing App-based drivers a welcome development, according to many.

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