Ola, Uber must protect drivers amid air of mistrust, say unions

Demand companies to set up kiosks to provide safety kits

March 15, 2020 01:45 am | Updated 01:45 am IST - Mumbai

Drivers are often the first to come in contact with infected passengers.

Drivers are often the first to come in contact with infected passengers.

Unions of Ola and Uber drivers have demanded the companies to provide them with safety kits so that they don’t get infected with the novel coronavirus.

“Ola and Uber drivers are often the first ones to come in contact with passengers who may have coronavirus. The two companies should not expect drivers to reach their centres to receive the safety kits, but set up kiosks offering disinfectants, masks and hand sanitisers at major pick-up points such as airports,” said Shaik Salauddin, national general secretary, Indian Federation of App Based Transport Workers (IFAT). Mr. Salauddin also highlighted the case of an Ola driver who tested positive after ferrying two people from Mumbai to Pune.

He said over the past week several drivers have reported that their customers are insisting that they wear masks and disinfect their cars. “Why should the driver buy masks and disinfectants? Don’t the companies have a social obligation?” Mr. Salauddin said.

K. Somashekar, leader of the app-based drivers’ union in Karnataka and office-bearer of IFAT, said the companies should declare a 14-day paid sick leave for drivers as implemented in Australia and the U.S. Andrew Macdonald, senior vice president, Rides and Platform, said work is on to provide compensation to drivers and delivery agents under quarantine for up to 14 days. “This has already begun in some markets and we are working to implement such mechanisms worldwide. We believe this is the right thing to do,” Mr. Macdonald said.

Spokespersons of Ola and Uber said they had set up a dedicated team to deal with the outbreak and drivers have been briefed on dos and don’ts to ensure their safety. “Our walk-in centres are equipped with a steady supply of health advisories, hand sanitisers and masks that can be picked up and used by the driver-partners,” an Ola spokesperson said.

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