「经济学人」Ride

来源:SOHU  责任编辑:小易  

原标题:「经济学人」Ride-hailing in India

Bloody defeat

Mumbai unions force Uber and Ola into a corner

Strikes work when backed by violence

MUMBAI, INDIA’S financial capital, is famous for its appalling traffic. But since October 22nd its roads have been miraculously clear. The reason is that drivers for Uber and Ola, India’s two biggest ride-hailing firms, have been on strike. Local newspapers estimated that 90% of the roughly 35,000 drivers in the city have stopped working. Mumbai’s middle classes have been forced back onto trains, buses and rickshaws to get around, complaining vociferously.

Protests against working conditions at ride-hailing firms are not new, nor restricted to India. But what makes Mumbai’s strike different is that for once the firms seem likely to buckle. Drivers’ unions said that 80% of their demands had been met, including one to raise pay rates. If so, this will be one of the first times that ride-sharing firms have had to negotiate as a result of industrial action.

The drivers’ complaints are straightforward. When Uber, an American firm, and Ola, from Mumbai, started operating five years ago, they paid drivers generously. Some made as much 100,000 rupees a month ($1,360), a fortune in India. But over the past two years pay has been cut drastically. And in recent months, rising petrol prices have made things worse. “They are looting us,” says Nikhil Thakur, who has been driving for Ola for two years. His daily earnings have fallen from 3,000 rupees a day to less than 2,000. After paying for fuel, insurance and the cost of the loan for his car, he is barely breaking even. And because he still has to pay off what he has borrowed, he is trapped. “We bought cars on trust,” he says, and “today we are dying.”

But that drivers are miserable is no guarantee of a successful strike. What seems to be making a difference in Mumbai is the organising strength of powerful unions, in particular one called Maharashtra Rajya Rashtriya Kamgar Sangh. Striking is not easy for hard-up drivers, after all. “I won’t be able to buy new clothes for my children in Diwali [a Hindu festival],” laments Lakshman, who works for Ola. Thousands would have crossed picket lines already were it not for colleagues who maintain solidarity, by, for example, forcing strikebreakers to strip naked or smashing their phones. Dozens trying to work have been beaten up and their cars damaged.

The ride-hailing firms do not think they have the support of the authorities; last year Uber won an injunction compelling police officers to stop intimidating its drivers. But if the firms do give in to the strikers, what will happen? In July, one of Ola’s investors revealed that the firm’s losses increased by 55% last year, to $660m. Uber does not publish figures for each of its markets, but it is not thought to be making money in India. Striking drivers should perhaps not push things too far: they may find themselves out of jobs.

This article appeared in the Business section of the print edition under the headline "https:Bloody defeat"https: (Nov 1st 2018)返回学路,查看更多

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