At inception, ORide bore a lot of promise for many stakeholders. For customers, it promised cheap fares (as low as N100). For new recruits and riders, it held the prospect of better pay (N200,000 a month was advertised at inception) and stakeholders were wowed by ORide’s new market entry ideas.
No other bike-hailing company has transformed the subsector into what it is now like Opera’s ORide. In less than a year of its launch, the company flooded Lagos roads with its green-hulled bikes, its drivers wearing the conspicuous green coats and helmets emblazoned with its ‘P’ logo.
Everyone had a sense that Opay would have to bleed huge sums to sustain their far-too-kind marketing strategy but their $50m cash muscle silenced all doubts.
We sought to clear the doubts
To understand how the system has worked so far, we spoke with the most important players in the bike-hailing ecosystem, the riders, and our discoveries were fascinating.
What we found out? ORide is not paying its drivers N200,000 a month as claimed in its job advertisements.
In fact, nowhere in its Company/driver agreement (as we saw) did it stipulate any salary for its drivers whom, according to the agreement, aren’t even considered employees but simply contractors.
As a matter of fact, going by the construct of the terms of service, drivers will be lucky to make N60,000 a month.
What exactly did ORide promise?
ORide promised its drivers mind-blowing benefits: a monthly salary of about N200,000, flexible working hours and sundry welfare packages.
In fact, in an interview, ORide’s country manager, Iniabasi Akpa, claimed that there is an insurance cover for both riders and passengers:
But according to an ORide rider, Martins Sunday (names have been changed because the driver wishes to remain anonymous), all the promises are nothing but sweet talk. He claimed that no one have been insured.
Sunday says proper working conditions such as welfare, medicals, safety covers as well as other standard entitlements prescribed by international labour conventions are non-existent in their job.
As a matter of fact, Sunday explained that the reverse is the case as there are no stipulated salaries. ORide drivers have to meet a daily target which they struggle with and take care of all running expenses before they can take home whatever is left.
The result? They allegedly have to work overtime to take home a reasonable sum for their expectant families.
This, if it is true, makes the promise of flexible working hours totally unfactual. To make matters worse, quitting has been made extremely difficult too.
The riders bear the burden…
Sunday joined ORide as a driver this year. Upon joining, he was given an exhaustive contract to sign after which he was issued a motorbike, uniform, a helmet and a phone.
Contrary to what he believed he’d signed up for, he realised that the running cost was entirely his to bear.
“They never gave me fuel, they never gave me data,” Sunday says in pidgin. “Even, they never gave me call card and they want me to call any passenger they give me. And they want me to be online from morning till night. And all that are my own personal expenses to make.”
Salaries and welfare
When asked about the promised sum of N200,000 as seen in the job adverts, Sunday insists that is very far from his reality.
“They don’t pay me N200,000,” Sunday says. “What they mean by N200,000 is that they estimate that in a day you’ll make 10,000 and by the end of the month you should have at least 200,000.
“But the fact is that even if you actually make 10,000 in a day, when you calculate your expenses for fuel, data and call card, at least 5,000 or 7,000 would have been spent. And that is excluding the money you pay them daily.”
The problem started from the beginning…
A look at the agreement drafted by ORide (TooYou Services Limited) for the drivers shows that no salary was stipulated. Sunday insists that their earning power has been greatly impacted by the multitude of bikes all jostling for customers on the same app.
This, he believes, makes the estimated N10,000 daily an impossible task.
“Before you earn N5,000 after ORide removes its own, you will suffer,” Sunday tells me.
“I make between 50,000 to 60,000 a month after basic expenses. That is if the bike doesn’t develop a fault and I don’t get to pay the different motorcycle unions like MOALS and NNAMORAL. If your bike is faulty for 2 days, ORide will still take their money for those two days even though you’re the one footing the bills for repairs”, he concludes.
The ORide/driver agreement: self-preservation or exploitation
The ORide (TooYou Services Limited) agreement with drivers is referred to as a ‘Professional Services Agreement‘ although the riders in most cases aren’t highly skilled professionals because, here, bike riding doesn’t require any special training.
Yet, the document has been carefully crafted to protect ORide from all forms of obligation which may include running cost, medical bills, and accidents.
The agreement also fails to protect the riders who interface with the customers and pass through all the hazards. Its provisions, somewhat, also fall short of internationally accepted labour standards.
For instance, a part of section 3 reads:
“Nothing in this agreement is intended or should be construed to create a partnership, joint venture or employer-employee relationship between company and driver (herein referred to as contractor).”
If that is the case, do the riders (contractors now) have a say in the pricing model and decided discounts?
Subsection 1 of the same section states clearly that the riders are not protected by insurance:
“A driver is not entitled or eligible for any benefits that the company may make available to its employees such as group insurance, profit sharing or retirement benefits.”
It also says ORide will not make payments for any employment benefit, including but not limited to applicable social security, unemployment insurance or disability insurance contributions, all of which shall be the exclusive responsibility of the driver.
Section 3.3 goes on to basically tell drivers they are self-employed and must consider themselves governed by self-employment laws.
Section 4.1 tells them they are only entitled to whatever pay they get from their daily earnings, not a penny more in whatever form, while section 4.2 says drivers will be solely responsible for all expenses incurred while performing their services to the company.
Section 8.2 tells the driver he will pay for every repair for damages to equipment incurred during the execution of his service. And Section 9 grants that the driver indemnifies and holds harmless ORide and its ‘affiliates, employees and agents’ from ANY AND ALL LIABILITIES, LOSSES, DAMAGES, COSTS and OTHER EXPENSES.
Section 5 of the agreement goes on to bind drivers to a very tight non-disclosure and confidentiality clause.
The problem with this arrangement?
The major problem inherent in this contract is that ORide appears to deny any association with its drivers, who aren’t necessarily held to any professional standards.
It also puts all the liability on them while denying them any welfare package. Even when they are clearly risking lives and limbs working on ORide’s behalf, making them money, with motorcycles and uniforms that depict as much.
This falls very short of both Nigerian and international labour practices which guarantee a recognised employment relationship with labour and social protection, safe and healthy work conditions free from harassment, and adequate compensation and welfare for workers.
Furthermore, the set of people likelier to want to take on motorcycle riding are the less educated members of society. Many of them are poor (largely semi-literate) without access to professional legal services.
They would likely not read the contract or employ a legal professional to examine its contents to ensure that their interests are protected. Even if they read it, they would likely not understand a thing in it but would sign anyway spurred by the promise of making N200,000.
Little wonder Sunday claims he didn’t know that he had already signed away his right to complain if treated poorly and if the company doesn’t give him a kobo in aid.
This calls to question whether ORide made sure the terms of the contract were broken down for the average driver so he understands what he’s getting himself into. Or whether it advised drivers to seek professional interpretation before coming to sign for that matter.
In fact, section 8.1 (d) of the agreement suggests ORide would rather the riders don’t get third party help.
According to the subsection: “the rider has full right, power and authority to enter into and perform this agreement without the consent of any third party, including the right to grant all licenses granted by the rider in this agreement”.
This section basically encourages the riders to agree with the provisions on their own limited knowledge.
Quitting is expensive if not impossible
After entering into the system based on the lofty promises and discovering it isn’t anywhere as good as the hype, it will be normal for a rider to decide to opt-out of the system.
But according to Sunday, ORide has put in place conditions that make it difficult to leave. He also claims they weren’t told of these stringent measures from the onset as he only found out by mistake.
He claims they were told the service was for hire-purchase of the motorcycles even though the agreement doesn’t indicate this in any way.
“They never told us we would have to pay damages for phones if we decide to quit the job,” Sunday says. “But one day, I saw the (separate) document stipulating the conditions for quitting with my team leader and took a photograph with my phone.”
In all fairness, these specific details aren’t spelt out in the agreement as well.
According to the document (as shown above):
- The rider must return the motorcycle, helmet, smartphone, raincoat and uniform.
- If the phone is stolen or damaged, the driver would pay a fee of N40,000.
- A fee of N2,000 is required if the helmet is stolen or damaged.
- A depreciation fee of N20,000 is required to ‘fix retrieved bike’.
- Payment of mileage fee at the rate of N14 per kilometre.
- And, of course, the rider would pay up all outstanding remittances.
This is strange especially since Section 8.2 of the agreement expressly states that all equipment remain properties of the company at ALL TIMES. If the driver has been responsible for fixing every damage on such company property since being issued, it’s curious to make him pay for depreciation on equipment.
Furthermore, if it was indeed on hire-purchase as alleged and drivers must pay for depreciation if he decides to quit, what then happens to all the money he has been paying to ORide for the eventual purchase?
Does he get it back since he has repaired the motorcycle whenever it had faults?
According to Sunday, it’s almost impossible to prevent a phone from getting damaged due to the very nature of the job as they are required to hook the phones somewhere close to the handgrip.
At that position, it becomes the first thing touts target when they ambush drivers. It also means the phone is exposed to being snatched or to fall down arbitrarily. It also could get into contact with oncoming vehicles with the impact resulting in damage.
This explains the increase in offline trips
It is now a common experience for customers to search for bikes on the app for hours even when they can see some ORide bikes around. This is because the riders have gone offline to force customers to speak to them directly.
Sunday admitted that many drivers have resorted to the risky business of picking passengers and charging the fare themselves as part of their offline hustles.
The money is usually not recorded and as such becomes the driver’s personal income. This is allegedly done because the pricing mechanism by ORide puts them at a disadvantage.
“If for example, a driver hasn’t carried enough passengers all day to even guarantee him some earning, if he sees an offline passenger coming, even if everyone else is rejecting such a passenger, he could decide to negotiate and drive the passenger, at least to make some money for himself.”
The reason for resorting to such self-help is not far-fetched. With tough targets, zero welfare and zero assistance for their running cost, it was only a matter of time before the drivers resorted to jumping the thin line between bike-hailing and regular bikes.
Many customers have attested to the fact that this usually happens especially during the morning and evening rush hours. ORide riders usually abandon the app and hustle offline.
Our former hustles are better…
In the end, Sunday says he prefers returning to his previous business of riding the traditional bike called Bajaj to being an ORide driver because his expectations have not been met.
And, to make matters worse, quitting, given the stringent requirements and his present situation, makes a return very impossible.
All attempts to get a response from ORide through an email and on Whatsapp proved abortive as at the time this report was filed. The only response was a mail from a certain Airoboyi who said all my ‘observations’ will be forwarded to management for review and action.
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