FWO investigates Uber in Australia over pay and conditions

The ride-share company is being investigated amid claims of sham contracting and underpayments

FWO investigates Uber in Australia over pay and conditions
Uber in Australia is being accused of failing to comply with federal workplace laws amid claims of sham contracting. It is alleged that Uber underpaid drivers by classifying them as contractors rather than employees.

A Fair Work Ombudsman spokesperson confirmed that an investigation into Uber was underway.

“I can confirm that the Fair Work Ombudsman has commenced an investigation into Uber, with the purpose of determining whether the engagement of Uber drivers is compliant with commonwealth workplace laws,” he said.

According to a RideShare Drivers United spokesman, several members met with staff from the ombudsman’s office in Melbourne two weeks ago and urged them to look into Uber’s practices.

The RSDU said it was preparing to forward the details of more than 60 drivers for investigation over whether they should be classified as casual employees.

It has also issued a call for any drivers who have been with Uber for more than a year and drive an average of 35 hours or more a week to be part of the investigation.

The RSDU said they feel it is "absolutely essential" that drivers in the ride share industry (on all platforms) should be classified as casual workers by default and compensated according to law, unless proven otherwise by the employer.

“To be classified as real subcontractors, drivers must have more control and ability to grow their business, directly negotiate service prices with customers, ask for the destination before having to drive to the pick up location, be permitted to hail street rides, issue invoices and most importantly be able to scrutinise the Uber booking system and its various performance and earning metrics,” said the RSDU in a statement.

“Uber currently does it all ‘on behalf of drivers’ while drivers have absolutely no say over any of these important business decisions/functions, in what appears to be a classic ‘sham contracting’ arrangement.”

According to Uber, more than 60,000 Australian driver-partners choose to drive using the Uber app because they like to set their own schedule and be their own boss.

Uber said the company will be happy to assist the FWO with any questions they may have.

The allegations in Australia come amid news that the CEO Travis Kalanick has resigned, capping a series of controversies that’ve rocked the world’s largest technology startup and exposed fundamental problems with its male-dominated culture.

Kalanick said he was ceding to investors’ wishes that he step aside, in part to avoid yet another conflict. Uber’s been dogged by drama this year, from allegations of sexual harassment to the use of software to bypass regulators.

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