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Bolt strike

Bolt strike. Photo: ADCU

Drivers at Bolt went on a 24-hour strike and protested outside the HQ after the company refused to treat them fairly, reports Yonas Makoni

On Sunday, 20 June, the App Drivers and Couriers Union (ADCU) reported that private hire app and Uber competitor Bolt had refused to agree to their demands. These include worker status for drivers, an increase of fares to £2 per mile instead of the current £1.25, and an end to unfair deactivations (dismissals). In response, the union called a 24-hour strike and protest action on Tuesday, 22 June.

At the protest at Bolt’s HQ in Chiswick, the mood was upbeat, with music and food keeping spirits high. The drivers are frustrated, however, that the company is still not respecting February’s Supreme Court judgement on workers’ rights, which declared that workers in companies like Uber or Bolt are entitled to basic workers’ rights such as the minimum wage and protection from discrimination.

In recent years, rates for app-drivers have been going down due to the high volume of new drivers coming in (from around £2.50 to £1.25 per mile in the span of a few years, according to one driver). This oversupply also reduces each worker’s bargaining power and makes them more disposable in the eyes of the company.

When asked to recount their experiences to the crowd, several drivers reported being suspended or deactivated from the app - sometimes for several weeks or months - based on spurious and uninvestigated complaints. While these complaints are being processed, drivers are unable to log on to the app or take passengers and are thereby deprived of their source of income. Even if the complaint is rejected, it still stays on the driver’s record indefinitely.

“It just takes one passenger, who’s having a bad day”, said one driver who was suspended for 28 days, after a complaint that Bolt then found to be baseless. “We’re always on a knife-edge, we never know what’s going to happen”.

On the whole, things are on an upward trajectory for the drivers. Immediately after the demonstration, the ADCU launched a mass legal action against Bolt. The Supreme Court judgement and the increasing unionisation of the industry makes it a matter of time before companies like Bolt give in. But, as with Uber, they will inevitably find ways to get around their legal obligations and it is essential that the workers stay vigilant and organised.

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