Australia joins worldwide Uber safety protest

A global protest calling on Uber to prioritise safety and fairness will hit the streets of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane on Wednesday.

Australia joins in worldwide Uber protest.

Australia joins in worldwide Uber protest. Source: Chun Long Cheung, All Creative Commons, Flickr

Rideshare drivers and delivery riders across Australia will take part in global protest action on Wednesday in a bid to make Uber prioritise safety.

Letters will be delivered by drivers and the Transport Works Union to offices across the country with a list of claims for the company.

The main action will take place in Melbourne at 10.30am, but action will also take place in Sydney and Brisbane.

The protest follows more than 100 submissions that have been made to the Victorian government's On-Demand Workforce inquiry into industries such as food delivery and ride sharing.

Josh Klooger.
Source: SBS News

Former Foodora rider Josh Klooger last year won Australia's first unfair dismissal claim against the delivery service after he stood up for better working conditions.

"It was pretty good at first, I was getting paid around $25 an hour with a delivery rate per drop, but as other companies came in, the market grew, the newer drivers were getting paid less and less until it got to a point where I had to speak up about it," the university student told reporters in Melbourne on Tuesday.

Mr Klooger said newer drivers were getting paid $7 per delivery and nothing per hour by the time he left.

The inquiry will not hold public hearings but will talk to industry stakeholders before reporting later this year.

US rideshare drivers strike

Rideshare drivers in major US cities are set to strike on Wednesday, casting a shadow over the keenly anticipated Wall Street debut of sector leader Uber.

Organizers in some cities are calling for a 24-hour stoppage while the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents both app and traditional taxi drivers called on drivers to shut down all apps between 7am and 9am.

The organizers called on drivers for Uber, Lyft, Via and other ride-hailing platforms to stop working as part of the protest.

It was unclear how many drivers would take part in the work stoppage amid strike calls in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston and the US capital city Washington. A similar action was expected in London, according to the US organizers.

The app drivers are seeking improved job security including an end to arbitrary "deactivations," and a better revenue split between the drivers and platforms.

In New York, the alliance was expecting most of its 10,000 app drivers to participate in the stoppage as well as some non-members.

"Wall Street investors are telling Uber and Lyft to cut down on driver income, stop incentives, and go faster to driverless cars," Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York association, said in a statement.

"Uber and Lyft wrote in their (regulatory) filings that they think they pay drivers too much already. With the IPO, Uber's corporate owners are set to make billions, all while drivers are left in poverty and go bankrupt."

IPO in the wings

Uber is set to launch its initial public offering (IPO) this week at an estimated valuation of some $90 billion, including its options and restricted stock unit.

The launch will be a major milestone for the company which has raised billions and disrupted the taxi industry in hundreds of cities around the world.

The move follows a troubled market debut for Uber's largest US rival Lyft, which has lost more than 15 per cent of its value since its March IPO.

The strike highlights the dilemma for rideshare firms which have faced challenges from regulators and traditional taxi operators, for using a business model relying on independent contractors.

Daniel Ives, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, said Uber's rideshare "take rate" increased slightly to 21.7 per cent in 2018 but that this will remain a hot point of contention for Uber.

"We do see added risk from Uber aiming to take a greater share of the fare from drivers and expect that the more Uber pushes here, the more drivers will fight back and protest, increasing the likelihood of regulations (particularly at the state level in the US and in Europe) of minimum wage guarantees," Ives said in a research note.

Drivers are at the heart of our service
Source: AAP

Uber said in a statement: "Drivers are at the heart of our service - we can't succeed without them - and thousands of people come into work at Uber every day focused on how to make their experience better, on and off the road."

Lyft drivers' hourly earnings have increased over the past two years and surpassed $10 billion, the company said in a statement.

"Over 75 per cent drive less than 10 hours a week to supplement their existing jobs," Lyft said. "On average, Lyft drivers earn over $20 per hour."

Both Lyft and Uber set aside some of their shares for drivers as part of their offerings. 

Published 8 May 2019 at 3:36am, updated 8 May 2019 at 6:54am
Source: AFP - SBS