Heetch eyes Malta’s cutthroat taxi market

French ride-hailing company Heetch is currently head-hunting a business development head for its Malta operations

French ride-hailing company Heetch is setting its eyes on Malta with aims to join the cab industry.

The start-up is already operational in France and Belgium, as well as Morocco, Algeria and Angola.

It is currently head-hunting a business development head for its Malta operations.

The taxi market is already full of ride-hailing apps like Bolt, eCabs, Ryde, Bonju, Hicabs and Malta Taxi App, with their apps promising cheap prices and fast pick-up times.

It is a lucrative industry that also has its dark side, with early platforms having used illicit self-employment models for gig workers who can provide customers with shot waiting times.

While the gig economy provides flexibility and contract work for those uninterested in nine-to-five jobs, an element of precariousness pervades the industry. Last February, government ministers were warned of over 1,200 third-country nationals working for both taxi and food delivery services, on illegal work contracts in breach of Malta’s employment laws.

Some companies do not employ drivers and food delivery people directly, allowing them to avoid social security obligations and driving down the cost of labour.

Ride-hailing platforms have enabled great consumer response who use smartphones to hail cabs, coupled with a large supply of drivers to meet this demand. The liberalisation of the taxi market was key to this development, having lifted the need to have cars garaged under one company roof, and decoupling the driver from the company offering the ride-hailing app.

The European Commission now wants to legalise a form of employment status for platform workers and give additional rights to those employed under algorithmic management, giving them the right to a minimum wage, collective bargaining, working time and health protection, paid leave, protection against work accidents, unemployment and sickness benefits, as well as contributory old-age pensions.

Maltese law already lists a set of criteria concerning the legal status of self-employed workers. If five of the eight criteria are fulfilled, then that self-employed worker must be reclassified as an employee within the company it provides services for.