The TWU has slammed Uber’s cover-up culture and says Federal regulation is the only solution, after it was revealed the rideshare giant failed to report over 500 reportable incidents – including crashes and alleged sexual assaults – to the NSW regulator.
The TWU is calling on the Federal Government to urgently put in place an independent body with the power to tackle the root causes of safety breaches in exploitative businesses like Uber, arguing that post-breach audits and insufficient penalties will not prevent people being maimed or killed.
The NSW Point to Point Commissioner fined Uber $200,000 for failing to report 37 notifiable incidents, although a later audit found 524 additional incidents had not been provided for scrutiny, including collisions and accidents requiring hospitalisation.
Uber has a history of failing to report serious incidents, including last year when it covered up the death of an UberEats delivery rider killed on the job by claiming he was not working, despite the rider being logged in to Uber’s app and receiving order requests even after he’d died.
The report failed to address financial pressures on underpaid drivers to work fatigued over long hours. Over a two-week period, the Commissioner found 37% of drivers had more than 12 hours of continuous driving time, with some drivers working for up to 17 hours without a break.
TWU National Secretary Michael Kaine said the revelations show why Federal regulation of the industry is the only way to prevent deaths and injuries: “Once again we have a response from the NSW Government which largely lets Uber off the hook and is too late to the party.
The safety breaches uncovered are serious, alarming in number, and put lives in danger, but the fine is a slap on the wrist that won’t even register a blip on the Uber balance sheet.
It will be written-off as the cost of doing business: the cashed-up Silicon Valley giant will sign the cheque and continue the cycle of exploitation that is injuring and killing people in the deadly pursuit of profits. How many Australian workers need to be seriously hurt or die before governments actually take on these corporate bullies?
Federal Government inaction has allowed Uber to act like there’s one set of rules for them, and another for everyone else. If any other employer breached their obligations over 500 times, they’d have the book thrown at them.
By the time the Commissioner audits rideshare companies, it’s too late – collisions, injuries and even deaths have already occurred as a result of Uber’s exploitative business model.
The solution is Federal regulation with teeth which can get to the root causes of driver exploitation and poor safety conditions in the industry. Uber controls how, where and when drivers work, but it’s taking no responsibility for the safety of drivers or the community. Transport workers need an independent body to hear disputes with companies, and establish and enforce appropriate standards, pay and conditions”.
In April, the TWU and its food delivery rider members withdrew from a NSW Government Taskforce set up after a spate of worker deaths over its sustained silencing of riders on exploitation and insistence that regulatory change was ‘beyond scope’.
In November, the NSW Government’s own report stated time pressures and low earnings were the two leading causes of unsafe behaviour (Centre for WHS).