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Covid-19: After driver backlash, Grab reinstates incentive scheme, clarifies distribution of govt relief

SINGAPORE — Ride-hailing firm Grab on Friday (Feb 21) reversed a decision to suspend an incentive programme and clarified its stance on distributing government assistance after a backlash from drivers, who have been hit hard by the Covid-19 outbreak.

Grab drivers were unhappy over the removal of an incentive scheme, and the way government assistance was being distributed.

Grab drivers were unhappy over the removal of an incentive scheme, and the way government assistance was being distributed.

SINGAPORE — Ride-hailing firm Grab on Friday (Feb 21) reversed a decision to suspend an incentive programme and clarified its stance on distributing government assistance after a backlash from drivers, who have been hit hard by the Covid-19 outbreak.

In a media statement, a Grab spokesperson clarified that all Grab drivers will be eligible to receive financial assistance of up to S$70 per week announced by the Ministry of Transport last week for embattled taxi and private-hire car drivers.

The firm will also supplement this assistance with a “weekly cover” scheme of up to S$85 per week, the spokesperson added.

On Thursday, Grab said it would withdraw its Super Steady Streak scheme, which rewards drivers for each consecutive month in which they take 200 rides or more.

But on Friday, after meeting a number of drivers, along with the National Private Hire Vehicles Association (NPHVA) and the Land Transport Authority (LTA), Grab agreed to extend the Super Steady Streak scheme, the spokesperson said.

In a separate statement on Friday, the NPHVA said the extension was until May.

Drivers were also disgruntled when Grab had announced that it would vary the total financial assistance disbursed to each driver, according to how far they had progressed in its incentive programmes.

These payments were part of the S$77 million aid package announced by the Government last week to compensate private-hire and taxi drivers affected by the Covid-19 outbreak.

To be eligible for the government payments, drivers need to have completed at least 200 trips per month from October to December 2019.

However, Grab drivers had complained that they were receiving less money than before the package was rolled out.

In its statement, the NPHVA said that it held the meeting with Grab and LTA representatives to discuss the drivers’ concerns over their financial position.

“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. This announcement from Grab has caused drivers to be concerned with how they might be in a worse-off position due to the changes,” said NPHVA adviser Ang Hin Kee.

“Following our conversation, Grab has agreed to extend the Super Steady Streak scheme until May 2020, and that there will be continued discussions between Grab and NPHVA to review the scheme.”

In the Grab statement, the spokesperson said: “Our primary intent was to provide better earning security for our driver-partners, especially when we have seen a decline in rides per driver-partner, mostly due to decreased commuter demand and drop in tourist arrivals.”

A full-time Grab driver, who wanted to be known only as Mr Goh, 45, told TODAY that he was grateful for financial assistance provided by Grab, as his earnings had dropped by about 40 per cent since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak.

“I’m one of the lower tiers in the incentive programme, but whatever is given to me, I’ll just accept it because it’s additional money,” he said.

Mr Goh also said that he was unfazed by the removal and subsequent reinstatement of the Super Steady Streak scheme.

“I’ve been driving with Grab for about four years and we really have mentally prepared (ourselves) that we will lose whatever incentive scheme; it’s just a matter of time,” he said.

“But life has to go on. Since we have chosen private hire as a career, we must be prepared for any changes that might come along the way,” he added.

Meanwhile, ComfortDelGro Taxi said on Thursday that it would provide an additional S$10 million worth of rental rebates to its 10,000 taxi drivers, on top of the S$18 million it pledged on Feb 13.

SMRT Taxis also announced additional rental rebates on Friday worth S$2.5 million, bringing its total relief fund for its full-time taxi drivers to S$4.8 million.

Following this announcement, SMRT’s 2,500 taxi drivers will each see total daily rental reductions of S$35 until the end of March, S$30 a day for April, and S$25 a day from May 1 to 13.

Ride-hailing competitor Gojek announced on Friday that its driver-partners would receive financial aid of up to S$140 a week, with half of these payments coming from the Government’s support package and the other half to come from Gojek.

Drivers will receive these payments from March 2 to May 30, the firm said.

Any private-hire car driver who wishes to collect the Government’s support of S$10 a day must first nominate their ride-hailing platform of choice and may make only one nomination.

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