Angry workers forced the offices of taxi app Bolt to shut after striking and organising a lively protest on Wednesday.
Their demands include a guarantee that they will be paid at least £2.50 a mile, an end to unfair dismissals, and knowing what the data collected about them is used for.
Striker Bash told Socialist Worker, “Now I work for Bolt, but I used to work for Uber. It’s a very poor company. If the customer pays £40 for a trip, you’ll be lucky to get £15 back. Now Bolt is following Uber’s example.
“Bolt takes up to a 20 percent commission from drivers, so a trip from Piccadilly to the airport only earns me £8 when a black cab driver can charge £100 and keep much more of that money. When Bolt gives customers 40 percent discounts, these discounts come from our wages.”
Bash added that he is spending hundreds of pounds to keep his vehicle on the road and believes that effectively he does many of his trips for free.
Striker Vasanthan described the frustration and panic of being locked out of the app and unable to work. “I was suspended from using the app for days. But there is no way for us to explain what happened in cases like this and no easy way to get through to the company.
“I called and they didn’t pick up, I messaged and they don’t reply. You go round in circles with them.”
ADCU general secretary James Farrar told Socialist Worker that Bolt has ignored a court ruling that taxi apps like Uber and Bolt should grant “worker status” to their drivers. “Bolt’s valuation shot up to £6.2 billion. This is a higher valuation than supermarket Sainsbury’s or retailing company Kingfisher,” he said.
“There is a cost of living crisis going on, but not for the bosses at Bolt. They are getting fabulously wealthy. Bolt doesn’t want to pay the minimum wage or sick pay, so they still won’t grant drivers worker status, and they don’t want to pay the VAT they would have to if they were.
“If you combine all of this, about a third of Bolt’s current market value can be attributed to unpaid wages and tax avoidance.
“All we can do now is strike and protest,” he added.
On the march to the Bolt offices, there was a brief standoff between security guards employed by the company and the strikers. The police were called and proceeded to intimidate workers and arrest a striker. The worker was quickly released, but protesters were rightfully furious that the police had tried to scare a group of mainly migrant strikers.
Striker Iulian said that with prices rising, it is becoming impossible to survive on the wages Bolt pays. “I’m striking because the price of everything is going up. We need to have a base rate of pay so it’s possible to earn enough to live.” Striker Haydar added that he often works more than ten hours a day, six days a week, and rarely gets to see his wife because of it.
Vasanthan, Bash, Iulian and Haydar all pointed out that to make enough money to scrape by at Bolt, you need to work an unbearable number of hours. “Bolt is destroying people’s lives,” said Bash. “We work like a donkey. We are putting our lives in danger working the hours we do. We are just tired.”
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