The tension between metered-taxi operators and Uber drivers is intensifying and, in some cases, resulting in violence as seen in Johannesburg recently. The taxi drivers maintain that they cannot compete with the app-based transport service since its rates are more affordable and functions outside of South African law because they do not have to obtain a taxi operator licence.
Of course, Uber maintains that it doesn’t specifically employ drivers; it just connects them with potential clients, and that the driver needs to follow whichever rules apply in a particular country. However, this has been refuted by the Department of Labour, after considering a recent ruling by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, which stated that Uber drivers are, in fact, employees of the company.
“It means that any person who falls in that category is an employee and therefore fully covered in terms of labour legislation,” maintained Department of Labour spokesperson Teboho Thejane.
Uber Africa responded by saying that they will move towards having the ruling reviewed before the Labour Court, but they will likely face another setback when the finishing touches to the National Land Transport Act Amendment Bill are approved by Parliament.
The amendments will cover e-hailing (making use of a transport service via an app or the internet), which will ensure that all taxi operators are regulated and comply with the law, i.e. having operating licences.
Whether or not these impending changes will affect Uber as a business and reduce the ongoing violence between metered-taxi operators and Uber drivers remains to be seen.