Transport Workers Union calls for gig workers ‘safety net’ as Uber slashes driver rates

Headshot of Cheyanne Enciso
Cheyanne Enciso
The Nightly
The changes will include different time and distance rates based on geography, as well as the time of the trip.
The changes will include different time and distance rates based on geography, as well as the time of the trip. Credit: JOE CASTRO/AAPIMAGE

The Transport Workers Union has called for a “safety net” of binding standards as rideshare Uber drivers face cuts to their earnings in a gig economy described as being in “freefall” without regulation.

Uber on Thursday night contacted rideshare drivers advising them of changes to time and distance rates used to calculate rider fares due to take effect August 7.

“The changes will include different time and distance rates based on geography, as well as the time of the trip,” the email to Uber drivers said.

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“In most cases, the rates will be lower than those currently used.”

Uber did not disclose the new rates in the email but said its pricing was reviewed on an ongoing basis “in an effort to balance a quality, reliable service for riders, with compelling earnings opportunities for driver partners”.

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine on Friday said rideshare drivers were once again bearing the brunt of a market that had been battered by an absence of regulation.

“Some of the most vulnerable and underpaid workers in our economy are once again facing cuts to their earnings in a market that’s in freefall,” he said.

“Rideshare drivers with no rights to minimum wage or other entitlements have spent the night wondering how they’re going to pay the bills next month.”

The Federal Government’s Closing Loopholes Bill — which passed the Senate in February — introduces new powers for the Fair Work Commission to set minimum standards for gig economy workers, including rideshare and food delivery drivers.

Those workers have long held low bargaining power and often receive pay at or below the rates of comparable employees. They will now be considered “employee-like” if they meet certain criteria.

Interested parties can make submissions to the FWC from August 26.

“The longer it takes for a minimum standards order to be determined, the lower pay and conditions will sink,” Mr Kaine said.

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