Mr Aird said the arrival of UberX was a challenge to the existing public transport regulatory scheme but it was nothing like a solution to the real crisis in the industry where drivers suffer from very low pay and unsafe working conditions.
“Taxi drivers are getting ripped off blind by operators and the community is getting a worn out service because of it,” Mr Aird said.
“Taxi drivers on average earn about $10 per hour and there’s no penalty rates for nights, weekends and public holidays.
“That’s $7.29 per hour less than the current Federal Minimum Wage and its no surprise these low levels of pay are directly linked to low poor safety and service outcomes.
“UberX is not the cause of or the solution to the industry’s problems it just provides for a further decline in standards of safety and fairness for taxi drivers.”
- UberX drivers are not guaranteed any level of income.
- They do not receive any of the protections traditionally extended to employees and many other workers.
- They bear the entirety of the risk associated with their work both in terms of contingency of income and total absence of security in work.
Mr Aird said the fact that UberX workers are not required to work at any particular time and have some capacity to accept or reject work does not change the position.
“It simply means that UberX drivers are just another part of the trend toward increasingly insecure work,” Mr Aird said.
“Any casual employee – in theory – has a similar capacity to accept or decline any particular shift. The fact a person’s work is ad hoc or contingent does not mean they are not an employee.
“The company’s claims that it is a technology company not an employer of drivers are self-interested denials of the reality of the position.
“UberX drivers are in truth employees and should be treated as such.
“The taxi industry has to get together to establish a minimum safety net of terms and conditions guaranteeing workers a fair rate of remuneration and reasonable safety standards.
“The safety net has to apply to all drivers, regardless of their classification as employees, bailees or independent contractors.
“Whether employees or not, UberX drivers and bailee taxi drivers should each enjoy the minimum level of employment protection extended to other Australian workers.”
The TWU believes action is necessary to address the industry crisis and to protect the interests of the community using taxis and the workers providing it.
Improvement in working conditions, and therefore improvement in safety and service standards, won’t occur unless workers are empowered to gain a measure of control over their working conditions.
For this you need to establish basic rights of workers to organise and rights to bargain.
The Road Safety Remuneration Act 2012 (Cth) and Chapter 6 of the Industrial Relations Act 1996 (NSW) demonstrate that non-traditional working arrangements are not a barrier to regulation. They represent reasonable starting points for the design of a regulatory scheme for the taxi industry.
To be effective, any response requires the involvement of government, industry and representatives of workers. It is imperative that any improvement in the safety net be accompanied by robust mechanisms for education and enforcement. Without these you’re wasting your time
The education regime should involve substantial training for new entrants, including training in relation to rights at work. All industry stakeholders must participate in training in order for it to be effective.
The enforcement regime must provide for practical means for identification, rectification and if necessary prosecution of breaches of laws.
This will involve robust and practical requirements in respect of record keeping, access to information (most obviously records of hours worked). It should also allow for enforcement by any stakeholder and most importantly by workers’ representatives.