Abuse, racism and minimum pay: Ride-share drivers detail experiences

A survey of drivers for Uber and other ride-share companies show below minimum rates of pay and reveals drivers have major safety concerns.

Drivers for Uber and other ride-share companies say they are being ripped off, assaulted, threatened and racially abused.

A survey of 1100 drivers released on Wednesday found more than 60 per cent reported earning below the average hourly $16 rate, before costs such as fuel, insurance and car maintenance.

There were also 969 reports of harassment and assault.

The survey, by the Transport Workers' Union and Ride-share Driver Co-operative, reported one in 10 drivers being physically assaulted on the job while 6 per cent were sexually assaulted.

Bashed on the job, forced to take unpaid leave

Raul has been a full-time ride-share driver for three years. 

A few months ago, while on a routine trip in the city, Raul was repeatedly punched in the face.

"After 15 to 20 days, I started to experience some pain in my left eye, and suddenly I started to see everything double."

Raul was forced to take unpaid leave after he was punched by a passenger.
Source: SBS News

He was forced to take two and half months off work, unpaid. 

"They said 'we really apologise for the inconvenience caused to you' and they said, 'ok just wait for a minute' and they bought a box of chocolates and handed over to me, and that's it."

Other drivers surveyed shared their own traumatic experiences.

"A passenger pinned me into my seat with his body weight while he used a hand to sexually assault me," one respondent said.

Racism on the job

Thirty-seven per cent reported being threatened while almost a third received racist comments.

"I have had drunk passengers call me a n***er and terrorist", one driver said.

Another driver reported a passenger joked "about taking me to a remote location to rape me".

The Transport Workers Union's Tony Sheldon says ride-share drivers are being exploited.
Source: AAP

One respondent filed a police report after being held at knifepoint, with the rideshare company failing to deactivate the passenger's account.

The Transport Workers' Union's Tony Sheldon said the "shocking and disturbing" survey results reveal the true nature of the on-demand economy, where drivers are being ripped off and and offered no support.

"What's going on is 18th exploitation via an app."

Drivers also complained of being immediately deactivated from the ride-share apps when passengers leave wallets behind or make false reports.

"Drivers want to be paid a fair rate, we want protections against threats and assaults and we want to go to work and know our company will not sack us without giving us a right of reply," said the co-operative's Emmett D'Urso.

Uber introduces new safety features

The survey was conducted between July and October. Respondents, some of whom work for multiple ride-share companies, work for Uber, Ola, Taxify, DiDi and others.

An Uber spokeswoman said it was committed to driver safety and violence was not tolerated.

Allegations by a rider or driver are investigated by its 24/7 team and any necessary action taken, including removing rider access to the app.

Last month, new safety features, including an in-app emergency help button were announced for all riders and drivers in Australia.

"We continue to work on promoting the safe use of our app and tackling tough issues with safety experts and leading organisations in Australia," the spokeswoman said.

Ola, Taxify and DiDi were also contacted.

Additional reporting by AAP.

Published 24 October 2018 at 2:50pm, updated 25 October 2018 at 7:00am
By Sarah Abo