Fri, May 10, 2019 - Page 10 News List

Drivers strike ahead of Uber’s listing

‘INVEST IN LIVES’:Ride-hailing drivers in the US and the UK called for better pay, while the company expects to reduce incentives to improve its financial performance


Rideshare drivers for Uber and Lyft protest at Los Angeles International Airport over what they say are unfair wages in Los Angeles, California, on Wednesday.

Photo: AFP

Thousands of Uber Technologies Inc and Lyft Inc drivers on Wednesday turned off their apps in a US-wide strike over pay and working conditions, casting a shadow over this week’s keenly anticipated Wall Street debut of ride-hailing leader Uber.

Uber is expected to launch its initial public offering (IPO) today, giving it an estimated valuation of about US$80 billion, one of the biggest tech listings in recent years, but rather lower than its earlier hopes of about US$100 billion.

The company was expected to announce pricing last night.

Uber is to trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker “UBER” some time next month.

The launch will be a major milestone for the company, which has raised billions and disrupted the taxi industry in cities around the world.

Strikes that took place on Wednesday highlighted a dilemma for rideshare firms, which have faced challenges from regulators and traditional taxi operators for using a business model relying on independent contractors.

One group protested outside the New York Stock Exchange, where Uber is set to list its shares, with some signs reading “Invest in our lives — Not their stocks.”

Similar actions took place in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, Washington and in Uber’s home town, San Francisco.

Protests were held in Britain as well with drivers in London, Birmingham, Nottingham and Glasgow called on to log off apps and demonstrate outside Uber offices, the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain said.

Rideshare companies maintain that drivers are able to thrive and maintain work flexibility, and that their business model would not work if drivers were treated as wage-based employees.

Uber and Lyft did not immediately comment on the protests.

“While we aim to provide an earnings opportunity comparable to that available in retail, wholesale, or restaurant services or other similar work, we continue to experience dissatisfaction with our platform from a significant number of drivers,” Uber said in a filing with securities regulators.

“In particular, as we aim to reduce driver incentives to improve our financial performance, we expect driver dissatisfaction will generally increase,” it said.

Uber’s inauguration as a public company would follow a rocky market debut for Lyft.

Lyft’s losses in the past quarter widened to US$1.1 billion, its first financial report as a public company showed.

Lyft’s revenue nearly doubled from a year earlier to US$776 million and the number of active riders grew to more than 20.5 million.

Lyft said its losses deepened as a result of US$894 million in costs that included stock-based compensation and related tax expenses in connection with its IPO.

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