With the recent shake-up in the private-hire industry, drivers no longer have a choice to shuffle between Uber or Grab.
That means, they are also somewhat beholden to a platform unless another fella that’s big enough comes along.
I found myself speaking to Mohd Randy, Executive Secretary of NPHVA, to find out how the association actually helps drivers especially those who pay $9 a month to be a member.
Grab was initially strict about disallowing banned drivers back onto its platform but they have since changed their position. What caused the shift?
“Grab wanted to be a bit more stringent so that their services continue to be reliable and safe. They wanted to reassess all banned drivers before getting them back on the platform. Some of these drivers would be reinstated on a condition – they have to pay a 40% commission (instead of the normal 20%) for two weeks.
That’s $4 commission for every $10 ride! Isn’t that unfair for drivers who have mended their ways?
“We met grab and convinced them not to implement the 40% commission on such drivers. You shouldn’t penalise a person indefinitely if they don’t show signs of issues. Some of these banned drivers have good ratings on Uber platform. Let’s not be primitive.”
Did NPHVA help to resolve other types of disputes and grievances?
“Most of the disputes and grievances are issues by individuals. For example, if they receive summons, we’ll try to appeal for them and advise them to avoid repeating the mistakes.”
What about collective issues like reviewing tax deductibles for private-hire drivers?
“NPHVA has made our representation to Ministry of Finance (MOF) to consider allowing tax deductibles on rental and fuel but they categorically said no. But we are going to continue engaging MOF and persuade them to review this issue because it’s affecting many drivers. It’ll be a long drawn process.”
What kind of protection do drivers actually get by paying $9 a month?
“We’ve got to be very clear. For unions, there are laws to use as levers to resolve issues. There’s the Employment Act and the Industrial Relations Act. The framework is in place to resolve disputes but there’s no structure for freelancers at this moment. But things are happening – there’s a new tripartite standards to engage freelancers now.”
So what’s in it for these drivers?
“Members are entitled to all NTUC membership benefits but more importantly, they must understand that they are lending their voices to address issues that concern freelancers. We didn’t have this platform in the past. When drivers provide information to the association, we can engage other partners in the network.”
Is it better for NPHVA to be stand alone or affiliated to be a bigger organisation with some influence on the national level?
“NTUC believes in helping the working people and we want to help the our drivers. There’s an alignment in cause. What is equally important is to have our driver members to stand up and be committed to serve their fellow members.”
And how does being connected to a larger network benefit members?
“Through our engagements with different partners, we may develop personal relationships. Some things are just an email or phone call away. If we’re not plugged in and we have to go through the directories – not knowing who to call and being transferred from one department to another, it may be too late.”
Sujanto, an NPHVA member, said he was suspended by Grab and you helped him to get reinstated back onto the platform.
“Yes, Sujanto tried to resolve the issue on his own for several weeks but he wasn’t able to reactivate his account. We intervened in week 6 or 7 and his issue got resolved quickly.
In 2016, NPHVA already signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Grab and the arrangement allows us to raise issues with Grab. I knew people in Grab and asked them to assist Sujanto on this issue. That’s the value that we try to bring to the table.”
From 30 to 6,800 members within two years
Within a short span of two years, NPHVA has grown their membership from some 30 members to 6,800 members to-date.
I was happy to hear that the association is working hard to represent this new group of workers in the gig economy.
From the recent happenings, it’s clear that even freelancers are vulnerable to disruptions and they need to be protected by an association who has their best interests at heart.
Drivers who are interested to sign up as a NPHVA member can click here to find out more.