Taxi industry deregulation does not excuse Uber from ripping off drivers

The arrival to Canberra of app-based booking services like Uber does not excuse companies like Uber, or taxi companies, from their responsibility to workers and to the community, said UnionsACT today.

Globally, Uber not only refuses to collectively bargain with drivers, but maintains the legal fiction that drivers are not Uber-employees. This has the potential to undermine the living conditions of all Australian workers.

Far from being “innovative”, companies like Uber are using a new technology to revive outdated and adverse employment relationships from the 19th century.

Similar adverse employment arrangements exist in the taxi and hire-car industry, and the Taxi Innovation Review was an opportunity to address the serious and systematic exploitation of drivers in the established industry, not just Uber drivers.

Unions have long argued that the taxi industry should be reformed. In most cities, including Canberra, the taxi industry operates effectively as a cartel, sucking up profits at the expense of drivers and customers.

During the Review, UnionsACT called for all sides – unions, Uber, the taxi industry and the ACT Government – to sit down to set sensible standards and policies.

The following statements are attributable to Alex White, secretary of UnionsACT:

“Unions will be closely scrutinising the announcement by the ACT Government on the taxi industry deregulation.

“Our chief concern is that the rights of drivers of both Uber and traditional taxi services are not further eroded.

“Today’s announcement does not excuse Uber from ripping off drivers and attempting to Americanise workers’ rights.

“Uber and taxi drivers experience significant risk of exploitation, with many earning less than the minimum wage. The experience elsewhere in Australia and around the world is that despite the hype, Uber drivers experience low pay and long hours.

“The decision by the ACT Government to ensure that drivers are covered by workers’ compensation laws is a positive step, and we look forward to examining the detail.

“We have asked for a detailed briefing from the Government, and we want to work with all stakeholders to ensure that exploitation and underpayment of drivers is stamped out.”

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