Uber passengers across Australia face the prospect of more stop-work action by drivers if the ride-sharing company refuses to improve pay rates for add-on services.
Tens of thousands of Uber drivers did not pick up passengers during Monday’s morning commute as they protested for fairer conditions.
Ride Share Drivers United want Uber to axe its up-front pricing and go back to paying drivers for the actual time and distance travelled, to allow for unexpected traffic, stops or even road closures.
The group wants drivers to be allowed to opt-out of multiple pick-up service UberPool, while those who choose to opt-in be paid the equivalent of base Uber rates plus at least an extra 20 per cent. The protest also calls to increase UberX rates by at least 15 per cent.
Drivers in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Hobart and Perth logged-off between 7am to 9.30am on Monday in the call for Uber to meet their demands within 10 days or face more disruptions.
“The upfront payment and UberPool are two extra layers of exploitation as a contractor you have no control over your business,” group spokesman Max B, who declined to give his surname, told AAP.
“You work much harder than a normal trip (in UberPool) and often you have to stop in illegal stopping places, where you get fined.
“Uber never consults drivers. Uber needs to bring prices to sustainable levels.”
He said customers should not have to pay more, rather Uber should cut back its commission on rides.
Andrew Jewell, Principal lawyer, McDonald Murholme, said, “As Uber drivers are not treated as employees their industrial action is not protected. Accordingly, the drivers can request higher pay but Uber is under no obligation to consider this request. If the drivers were deemed to be employees then Uber would need to meet minimum employment standards as set out in the National Employment Standards and the relevant modern award.”
“Uber drivers have many characteristics of an employee and accordingly should enjoy the protections that come with employment, which includes minimum wage rates. Even if the drivers are independent contractors they should receive at least the minimum award for employees in a similar position. If they are not receiving minimum rates of pay they can hardly be said to be operating a business.
“Presumably a protest of this kind has direct and indirect impact on a business. The direct impact is the lost revenue associated with drivers refusing to work; the indirect impact is the damage to reputation that comes with a protest of this kind and any form of regulatory response which would change the way the business has to operate.”
An Uber spokeswoman told AAP the company wanted successful driver-partners so had invested in technology to encourage more riders to share tips about the best times and places to drive.
“We have a range of channels for driver-partners to engage with Uber and provide feedback including regular round tables and focus groups, partner support centres around Australia, plus phone and 24/7 in-app support,” she said in a statement.
Ride-sharing platform Ola’s country manager for Australia, Simon Smith, said the strike was “a sign Australian ride-share drivers are fed up and demand better working conditions”.