Former Uber Executive reveals details about reduced driver earnings in Kenya

Alissa Orlando who acted as Uber’s Operations Manager until February 2017 has revealed that driver commissions in Kenya were slashed without any consultations.

In an affidavit that bolsters the case filed by a group of Uber drivers, Orlando says that the dispute that arose from slashed commissions led to her departure. She joined Uber in June 2016 as the operations manager in charge of the East African region but left in February 2017 in the wake of drivers’ protest against their reduced earnings. The case is still dragging through Kenya’s judicial system.

“Due to the arbitrary nature of decision-making in matters involving drivers by Uber Kenya Limited and Uber BV, I decided to leave my position as Operations Manager in February 2017,” Orlando said.

Her affidavit further reveals that there was little consideration of the prevailing economic circumstances or even the conditions the drivers were being subjected to in order to make ends meet.

“There was the narrative amongst the team and at the company broadly that earnings would increase even though we’re cutting prices by 35% because it’s going to spike demand. But this meant the drivers worked harder and obviously, that ignored the fact that, that was for the same amount of money or even less.” She narrates, adding that an incentive program that was meant to compensate failed to take off

“ We came up with cash incentives to backfill earnings but this was done only for a few months,”

Orlando, who is now based in New York says that most drivers were yoked by punitive loan programs Uber had signed with local banks.

“ They were trying to get people into $15,000 to $20,000 vehicles. You cannot pay back such a vehicle working at Uber prices. So, you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

The partnership between Uber and local banks had enticed drivers previously employed by Uber partners to purchase their own cars through loans. This would, in effect, increase the fleet of vehicles available for one of the company’s most popular services, Uber Chap Chap designed for cars below 1300 cc.

“So, you bought a vehicle and agreed to pay it off over five years. You have a fixed monthly payment. What do you do when the price is just cut? No one wants to buy your asset, or they want to buy it at a loss.”

The affidavit came yesterday, although it was signed in November last year. A few weeks ago, Uber had requested the courts to allow arbitration of the matter through internal mechanisms.

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Simon W Nderitu

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