The United Private Hire Drivers Branch of the Independent Workers’ Union of Great Britain (IWGB) protested on Tuesday 4 May outside Bolt offices in London. Following the murder of Bolt driver Gabriel Bringye while on a job for Bolt in February, drivers have been calling for better safety protections from the app-based operator.
This protest follows on from a strike by private hire drivers in March in memory of IWGB member and private hire driver Gabriel Bringye, who was murdered on 17 February while working for app-based private hire company Bolt. Later in March, another Bolt driver Muhammad Alam was also assaulted by passengers while on a Bolt job and had his car stolen at knifepoint.
Gabriel’s sister Renata Bringye attended the demonstration. She is a single-mother and a private hire driver herself, who has now given up driving for Bolt out of fear. Renata, who is IWGB member, still works as a private hire driver to make ends meet but only works in daylight hours out of fear for her safety. Gabriel’s family have received no support from the company aside from written condolences and some flowers.
Renata said: “After the murder of my brother Gabriel, our family have been trying to grieve and return to our lives. But as a private hire driver myself I struggle to leave the house for work because of the fear of getting attacked. I am fighting for justice for Gabriel and for Bolt to implement improved safety measures for drivers so that nobody else has to feel the same pain as we have experienced. Bolt claims to the media they are supporting our family, but this is simply not true. They must act now to ensure nobody else is hurt again. Drivers have spoken loud and clear: the app is not fit for purpose.”
A survey of UPHD members found that 71 percent of drivers had been assaulted by customers while on the job, and 82 percent of UPHD members reported that they had experienced verbal harassment on the job.
Alex Marshall, IWGB President, said: “We know that workers in the ‘gig economy’ are treated as disposable. But it has never been clearer than now – when a driver has been killed and the company thinks they aren’t worth more than a bunch of flowers. When we came to Bolt’s offices looking for answers, they shut up shop and hid. They might be cowards, but we’ll keep coming back until we get justice. We’re not asking for much – just that all workers get enough money to feed their families and are safe doing so.”
Drivers have come together as members of the IWGB to demand Bolt takes meaningful action to tackle assault and abuse against drivers. They are demanding that Bolt updates its app to require stronger identification from customers and also passcode protection on the customer’s app to prevent the use of the app on stolen phones, as is suspected in the attacks on both Gabriel and Muhammad. They also ask for Bolt to take complaints by drivers about abuse more seriously and to provide support after instances of violence.