The COVID-19 epidemic has seemingly taken over every aspect of people’s lives, businesses included. Many companies that offer point-to-point transportation otherwise known as Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle (PHV), like Grab, have suffered due to the implementation of the ‘work from home’ policy to lessen further spread of the disease.
Not only are people not leaving their homes, but aside from doing remote work, they are also cutting back on their social gatherings, leaving many PHV companies left with little to no driving jobs. In order to help boost the earnings for taxi and private hire vehicles, the Singapore government, National Private Hire Vehicles Association (NPHVA), and other operators have taken it upon themselves to put a support package together to help these drivers out in the meantime.
Last February 13, Grab released a message stating the details of the Point-to-point support package (PPSP).
The scheme aims to help these drivers by automatically placing S$20 in their hiring account every day without requiring them to apply. Those active private-hire drivers that have at least 200 trips each month for October through December of 2019 are eligible for the package as well. And those that do not automatically qualify can ‘tap a S$2.7 million fund set up by the Government and National Trades Union Congress,’ as stated in an article in Unscrambled.sg.
On the evening of February 21 (Friday), Grab announced more details for the support package, Super Steady Streak, but it caused many drivers to be upset. This was because the drivers feel that basically, they will be receiving what many say is a “paycut” since the new system will have them earning less. One such netizen, Tom Yeo said he was “Disappointed with Grab, Mixing Govt relief fund and treating it as their own incentive programme. Furthermore, during hardship times, stop all incentives and come up with Another incentive scheme co-funded with Govt relief fund. Best!!”
On February 22 (Saturday) the NPHVA decided to call for a meeting with Grab in order to address this, as well as the many upset comments they received via their Facebook page after a post they released just one day before.
It would also seem that part of the reason there was so much backlash from drivers on the NPHVA page, with 425 comments and 104 shares on that one particular post was because it iterated many of their concerns over this proposed Special Relief Fund. While the NPHVA is considered private, it is not fully part of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC). Thankfully, in this case, they were still able to help address the concerns of these PHV companies.
Despite all the help that the NPHVA was able to provide by helping voice out drivers’ concerns, there is still a question of whether an additional ‘three months’ lead time’ will be enough and if these companies will just choose to close ship and cut their losses. This will also leave drivers with the tough decision of whether they should gamble their careers and remain with Grab while they still can, or making a move to another PHV company or even totally switch careers.
This now leaves so many questions about the future of these Grab drivers, with many of them worrying that their welfare means nothing to the company that calls them “partners” rather than “employees” in order to lessen liability within the corporation. But until the day comes when the world has gotten a better grip on how to manage the COVID-19 crisis and its effect on the economy and people’s jobs, drivers will have to decide for themselves whether it is worth waiting it out with Grab, or not.