After driver backlash, Grab to stick with incentive scheme when aid kicks in

Grab drivers were up in arms over a perceived move by the ride-hailing firm to peg a coronavirus aid package to an incentive plan to spur drivers to work harder, but which potentially leaves drivers worse off.
Grab drivers were up in arms over a perceived move by the ride-hailing firm to peg a coronavirus aid package to an incentive plan to spur drivers to work harder, but which potentially leaves drivers worse off.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

Following an outcry from drivers, ride-hailing firm Grab will stick with a driver incentive programme even after a government-backed virus aid package kicks in next month. It had earlier tried to drop the incentive programme.

A Grab spokesman said yesterday: "Grab will continue the Super Steady programme for driver-partners who currently enjoy this benefit." She added that a tiered rewards programme will continue.

On Thursday, Grab said in its Special Relief Fund that it was handing out $70 a week in government aid to all drivers.

But for its own share of the financial assistance, it had pegged amounts payable to the various incentive tiers the company has in place for its drivers. It also said that its current incentive programme would be suspended.

The news angered drivers, who took to social media to lambast Grab for putting in place an aid plan in lieu of incentives.

Drivers said they would be worse off as a result.

The National Private Hire Vehicles Association weighed in on the issue, saying drivers should not be worse off after a relief package. After the association met Grab executives with representatives from the Land Transport Authority (LTA), the ride-hailing firm decided to rescind its first announcement.

Association adviser Ang Hin Kee said: "Our private-hire drivers have already started to feel the brunt of the Covid-19 outbreak, with many of them experiencing a drop in earnings. Following our conversation, Grab has agreed to extend the Super Steady Streak scheme until May 2020.

"Operators must look at how they can help drivers to cope with business costs - rental, fuel and commission, etc, as well as how they can better boost ridership by offering short-term promotions to commuters."

A $77 million aid package for the point-to-point transport industry was announced last week, with the Government giving $45 million and taxi and private-hire companies paying for the rest. The aid, which amounts to around $20 a driver per day, is to be paid out over three months from March.

Driver Kelvin Lam, 45, said: "The issue is they mixed the relief into their incentives. Incentives are something you need to work for. The relief package isn't." He said what the company was doing was very different from "the direct handouts and rental cuts" which taxi companies have rolled out.

 
 
 

With Grab's U-turn, driver Victor Lim, 63, said: "It may be a temporary reprieve. Let's see what happens after May. I may go back to driving a cab. I mean, Grab has always had a disclaimer to say it can remove any incentive. We know that. But does it have to do it during this period?"

Another driver, Mr C.T. Cheng, 57, said: "My position is really very simple. They must keep the status quo - keep the incentives as they are. We have to continue to work hard to qualify for the incentives.

"The relief package must be kept separate... It cannot be rolled out as part of our incentives."

An LTA spokesman said: "We have asked Grab to consider its drivers' feedback carefully, and to review if adjustments need to be made to better support them during this period."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 22, 2020, with the headline 'After driver backlash, Grab to stick with incentive scheme when aid kicks in'. Print Edition | Subscribe