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Issue #1851      December 5, 2018

Call for taxi drivers to join Uber class action

The Transport Workers’ Union has informed its taxi driver members that the class action is now open to those living in NSW, Queensland and Western Australia, as well as Victoria, following the announcement by Maurice Blackburn lawyers last month which are prosecuting the case.

“Taxi drivers have seen their incomes go into free-fall in the few years Uber has been here,” said Tony Sheldon, the TWU’s co-ordinator on the on-demand economy. “Their businesses have gone under, their families are struggling and some have even been pushed to suicide. The federal government has stood by and let this happen. Rideshare companies need to be regulated to ensure workers have the rights they deserve. Fairness for all drivers will bring a stable ride-share and taxi industry.”

Uber drivers are also struggling on low rates of pay because of continually slashed rates and high company commissions. They face threats and physical and sexual assault, with the choice of turning up to work the next day to earn money or staying at home to recover from their injuries and lose pay.

The union says that the Uberisation of working lives, whether it involves rideshare drivers or taxi drivers, has re-introduced eighteenth century working conditions, this time via an app and that the class action will go some way to put Uber on notice that the Australian community will not accept this.

Uber is hoping for a valuation of $120 billion ahead of its public sale next year but the class action exposes the house of straw it is built on. “Uber is being held to account for the trail of destruction it has caused. Despite its backers in Saudi Arabia and Qatar, Uber’s liabilities are massive,” Sheldon said.

Uber is operating on a short-term licence in London following a ruling which said it was not a “fit and proper” operator. In the USA in August, New York City Council voted to regulate rideshare companies, capping the number of new vehicles and guaranteeing the drivers a minimum wage.

A survey of over 1,100 rideshare drivers across Australia shows the average pay is just $16 per hour before fuel, insurance and other costs are taken out. One in 10 drivers has been physically assaulted while 6 percent have been sexually assaulted.

Drivers have faced death threats towards them and their families, rape threats, sexual assault, being punched in the face, held at knife-point, had their car windows broken, their cars stolen and have received racial abuse. They have been immediately deactivated from the ride-share apps when passengers leave wallets in their cars or when passengers make entirely false reports. Almost two-thirds of drivers have had false reports by passengers.

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