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Uber Cautiously Open To Minimum Pay Talks In Australia

Uber has defended claims of exploitation of drivers across the gig economy at a parliamentary inquiry into job security.

CANBERRA, Australia — Uber Technologies, Inc., an American technology company, has rejected claims that drivers in Australia are being paid well below minimum wage but left the door open to supporting a push to guarantee base pay.

The Senate’s job security select committee heard evidence from leaving gig economy players, including Uber, Ola, and Deliveroo, on April 12.

Ola Cabs is an Indian multinational ride-sharing company offering services. Deliveroo is an online food delivery company founded in 2013 in London, England.

Senator were told Uber Eats drivers earned an average of AUD 21.55 ($16.42) an hour during peak meal times.

Labor senator and committee chair Tony Sheldon asked Uber Eats general manager Matthew Denham to confirm below the casual minimum wage of AUD 24.80 ($18.90).

Denham said it was important to note delivery drivers and riders could work for other companies while being logged into Uber.

“In between trips, they might be running errands, they might be working on other platforms and earning extra income,” he said.

Denham signaled the company would be open to talking with the government about setting minimum pay rates but stressed the importance of independent and flexible work.

He warned a minimum wage could force Uber to implement set shifts, hours, and locations, 80 percent of drivers were against.

University of Sydney law professor Joellen Riley Munton rejected Uber’s excuse for opposing traditional minimum pay.

“I suspect the same arguments were made a couple of centuries ago in the deep south in the cotton plantations, but we still decided we wouldn’t tolerate slavery,” she said in the hearing.

Transport Workers Union calculations found gig workers were receiving between AUD 10 ($7.62) and AUD 12 ($9.14) an hour when overhead costs were deducted.

National secretary Michael Kaine said the union drew on 150 years of developing cost models for independent transport contractors.

“Whichever way you cut it, these workers are being exploited just on rates, and that’s before we even look at the work methods which are imposed on them which are leading to hazardous outcomes,” he said.

Kaine said companies’ business models encouraged people to take shortcuts, work harder and do longer hours.

“It’s those pressures, particularly the pay pressure, that need to be dealt with,” he said.

“It’s those pressures that we’ve seen can be fatal.”

The Transport Worker’s Union is pushing for a national tribunal to help gig workers bid to allow more flexibility than the binary idea or people either being employees or contractors.

“Just because our laws are out of the date, it doesn’t mean workers should die,” Kaine said.

Deliveroo bosses told the hearing its riders averaged AUD 23.40 ($17.83) an hour across March.

Ann Tan, Ola’s executive director, said drivers were earning around AUD 21 ($16.02) an hour and noted the high rates of people being on multiple apps, including Uber and other market players.

“We generally support any policy positions that provide a better outcome for our drivers and a level playing field for all industry players big or small,” she said.

(Edited by Amrita Das and Ritaban Misra)

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