Indonesian motorcycle taxi drivers protest low online tariffs

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Hundreds of Indonesian motorcycle taxi drivers working for start-ups Grab and Go-Jek called on Monday for an end to low online fares and demanded tighter regulation of ride-hailing companies.

Around 1,500 drivers - wearing the green jackets and helmets associated with Singapore-based Grab and Indonesia’s Go-Jek - briefly disrupted traffic outside parliament in the capital Jakarta.

“There must be legal and social protection for online ‘ojek’ drivers as part of the national workforce,” a group of drivers for both companies said in a statement that used the Indonesian word for motorcycle taxi.

Startups like Grab and Go-Jek have been locked in price wars to capture market share in Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s biggest economy. The firms have slashed prices for car rides, motorcycle trips and a raft of other services.

The transport ministry moved last month to classify Grab and Go-Jek as transportation instead of technology companies. That means they would be subject to the same regulations as regular taxi and bus companies and could potentially face higher costs and scrutiny.

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But there were no plans yet to apply the regulations to motorcycle taxis, said Budi Setyadi, director general of land transportation at the transport ministry.

“With regard to tariffs, it depends on the goodwill of the companies,” Setyadi told Reuters on Monday.

The drivers said on Monday they want a standard fare of 3,000 to 4,000 rupiah (22 cents to 29 cents) per kilometer.

Both Grab and Go-Jek have yet to make significant changes to their tariff structure.

Grab has said it preferred to maintain current rates because “Grab has other programs to improve the livelihood of its drivers”.

Reporting by Darren Whiteside and Tabita Diela; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; editing by Darren Schuettler