The Age, 28/6/2017
The Fair Work Ombudsman has launched an investigation into Uber and whether its contracts with tens of thousands of Australian drivers are in breach of federal workplace laws.
The employment watchdog undertook to probe the US-based company’s contractual relationship with its large workforce of “driver-partners” earlier this month, after a request by a group of disgruntled drivers who argue they have been “misclassified” by Uber as self-employed.
Uber drivers have argued their work agreement with the company is not like that of a self-employed contractor, because Uber controls every aspect of the job other than the number of hours a driver chooses to work.
Members of the group that made the request, Ride Share Drivers United, remain anonymous, and its spokesman “Max B.” claimed this was for fear that Uber will cut off any outspoken member’s access to the ride-hailing app.
Uber’s ability to block a driver’s access to the app and deny income opportunities, without a right of reply, is one of the key complaints the group has asked the Ombudsman to probe.
Uber drivers are scored between one and five stars by passengers for quality of service. A driver with a low star rating risks being deactivated.
Also at issue is Uber’s repeated cuts to its driver-partners’ rates, which have eroded drivers’ hourly incomes.
“Driving for Uber was, until May of 2015, a good earner,” Ride Share Drivers United wrote in its correspondence to the Ombudsman. “Up until then, Uber was priced to be 30 per cent cheaper than taxis.”
Uber reduced fare rates by 15 per cent in May 2015 and then by a further 15 per cent in April 2016.
“Since then, the ability of drivers – and it is important to understand that there are many who drive full time, often as a result of being made redundant or being unable to find other work – to earn a living has disappeared,” the group wrote.
Uber’s driver-partners cover all vehicle costs such as fuel, maintenance, depreciation and insurance, customer perks such as mints and water, and pay GST on their earnings.
Uber claims a 20 to 25 per cent commission on each fare.
The group presented as evidence to the Ombudsman the audited income and expenses of two driver-partners, who both worked 40 hours in…[Read full article on The Age]
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