Rideshare drivers on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic are appealing to the Federal Government to ensure all drivers are paid at least minimum wage after costs, do not have to pay GST and are protected against contracting and transmitting the virus.
Rideshare driving is considered an essential activity to continue in the latest government crackdowns, yet drivers classed as independent contractors are not guaranteed minimum wage for hours worked and are still paying GST, which the Rideshare Driver Network and Transport Workers’ Union want to see changed immediately.
“Amid this pandemic, drivers are being asked to fund the vehicles, fuel, maintenance and insurance required to continue this essential service and are being paid well below minimum wage. This is unsustainable at any time, but especially during a safety crisis it is a significant disincentive to keep the wheels rolling,” said TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine.
Drivers are also calling for Uber and other rideshare companies to extend compensation to include those not working due to being in the high-risk category of this virus, such as those over 70 years old, pregnant or with preexisting health conditions.
For those drivers still working, the list of demands includes safety measures such as limiting the number of passengers to two per five-seater car, a requirement for passengers to declare if they’re unwell or going to a COVID-19 testing centre with drivers able to cancel these trips without being penalised, and suspension of the customer rating system.
Last week, Uber closed its Australian Greenlight Hubs to protect office workers while failing to provide basic protections for its rideshare drivers.
“This unprecedented pandemic is showing us which workers are doing the essential jobs that keep our communities safe and operational. It is abhorrent that some of those workers are not even guaranteed minimum wage and through financial need are being pushed to work even if they are in the high-risk categories of this health emergency. We should be ashamed that hard-working people in Australia are having to fight for minimum payments for performing an important service to our communities. It goes without saying that rideshare companies like Uber cannot be trusted to do the right thing by their exploited workers or even passengers without the Prime Minister’s intervention. The Federal Government must step up and it must step up now,” Kaine continued.
The RDN wants the government to step in while drivers feel powerless. RDN spokesperson and rideshare driver Debra Weddall said: “We’re being seen as an essential service during this unprecedented health crisis. The Prime Minister needs to recognise this and act to ensure that the workers providing this essential service are guaranteed at least minimum wage after costs, that high-risk workers are protected and compensated, and that appropriate safety measure are enforced without drivers having to negotiate with passengers at the risk of being rated down. Drivers’ voices often fall on the deaf ears of bots which does nothing to alleviate our genuine concerns for safety or help us to support ourselves if we’re unable to work. We’re asking the government to step in and ensure we can operate safely and continue to be economic contributors to society.”
Rideshare drivers have spoken out about their fears driving the public amid this pandemic:
“I have an underlying condition. My doctor told me it’s unsafe to drive but I can’t afford not to.”
“I am an asthmatic, I can’t risk it.”
“I have stopped driving because it became too risky for me. Those cruise ships did it for me. I only missed the Ruby Princess pickup because I was at a conference. It was good luck, not good planning.”
“I’m semi-retired and my age group puts me in the high-risk category.”