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Uber Drivers take a day off to highlight low pay

From Nine To Noon, 9:31 am today

Some Uber drivers around the country are protesting today against low pay and the structure of the company.

Some Uber drivers opted to go out of action on 14 May, 2018 to protest against the low pay they received Photo: RNZ

Sher Abid - the organiser of the action on Uber from the Rideshare Drivers Network, which represents ride-share apps - told Nine to Noon the 'Uber Driver Day Off' aimed to bring to light the concerns Uber drivers face, such as low pay.

Drivers ended up with less than the minimum wage because costs, like petrol, were taken out of their own pocket and about 25-28 percent of their earnings went to the company, Mr Abid said.

"If I'm doing a $7 ride and Uber takes 25-28 percent ... you're left with actually, really nothing" - Rideshare Drivers Network spokesperson Sher Abid

Audio: duration 19:49

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However, an Uber spokesperson said that the feedback they recieved from the drivers about earnings and other issues were being dealt with in various ways.

"Earnings vary depending on when driver-partners choose to use the app, and the vehicle they choose to drive," the spokesperson said.

"We have introduced a number of initiatives in recent months following their feedback.

"This includes paid wait time, ratings protection features and fuel discounts via a partnership with BP, which accompanies other partner benefits via our Momentum program such as vehicle maintenance and financial management assistance."

Out of 6000 registered drivers around the country, only 100 were expected to take part in today's action. Mr Abid some drivers were reluctant to strike because they could be dropped from the app without warning.

"It has happened many times that people were actually kicked off the app because of costumer complaints about them or for any other reason... [Uber] will be spy on social media groups and if any driver is saying anything against Uber they'd just kick him off," he said.

Wellington Uber drivers want the company to change its policies and reduce the commission taken by the company to 10 percent, Mr Abid said.

He said the self-employment status of the drivers, known as partners, was part of the company's structure that was causing concern because Uber was not obliged to make sure they were paid above minimum wage.

Another concern for drivers was whether Uber was paying tax on their behalf out of the 25-28 percent cut they take, Mr Abid said.

Those who pay 28 percent of their earnings to the company believed Uber was paying the tax on their behalf, but with nothing in writing, were worried what would happen if they were contacted by IRD.

"The tax structure is not really organised we need more education and clear instructions on tax," Mr Abid said.

The confusion with regards to insurance on accidents was similar, Mr Abid said.

"Uber says we only need personal insurance but there have been cases that someone had insurance on their car and they had an accident and Uber never came back to them," he said.

So in some cases drivers were left out of pocket, Mr Abid said, but according to the law the drivers need commercial insurance.

The network has tried to contact Uber about their concerns but have not had any luck, because most of the communication took place via email or the app itself.

According to Uber's spokesperson, the company holds regular driver-partner events to engage our driver-partner community and offers a number of ways for driver-partners to engage with the business locally.

This includes:

• Regular roundtables to consult on app changes and elicit feedback

• Opened a new, expanded Greenlight Hub (partner support centre) in Kingsland in Auckland in December 2017, and also have centres in Wellington and Christchurch where driver-partners can speak to local Uber representatives

• Driver-partner events, such as a Movie Night for driver-partners and their families in February plus International Women's Day breakfasts in March

• Phone and in-app support - feedback channels that are open 24/7 where driver-partners can contact Uber for any questions or concerns

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