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Speaker: Confessions of an Uber driver

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  • Alfie,

    The Herald reports that upset Uber drivers are threatening to strike.

    Dunedin • Since May 2014 • 1388 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    My thanks Alfie for linking to relevant articles. Much appreciated.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19688 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    It seems that the simmering Uber controversy is in danger of proving Ned Ludd right. I've come to the view that the original Luddites weren't opposed to technology, but rather they were opposed to rentier feudalism.

    Specifically with Uber, far from cutting out the middlemen - ie the taxi industry and its associated red tape - Uber has basically created a new middleman of its own.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5420 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to BenWilson,

    It's what makes it so hard for enforcement to do anything about Uberers. They are nearly invisible against the general population of cars.

    Surely enforcement is less of a "swoop squad" and more "download the app, get the Ubnik to come to you"? If anyone is in a position to obtain large numbers of Uber accounts legitimately it would be the Police, surely?

    If they were going to be nasty about it they'd just check for the app on every phone they investigate, and call for a ride as part of the processing. For a police officer on the go it'd be "Bonus Uber prosecution with every arrest!". But I'm sure Andrew Geddis will explain how that would exceed their powers, leading Idiot/Savant to ask how that would be unusual.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1198 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Moz,

    Quite a good idea really - people wouldn't make a fake Uber app that instead erases the phone, destroying any evidence the cops might have been looking for in the first place.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    people wouldn't make a fake Uber app that instead erases the phone

    That would be hilarious. I'm tempted to make one just for the humour value. Think of the laughs when all the drunken punters hit "wipe my phone" instead of "get me home" on a Friday night.

    Appropriately, this is my 666'th comment here.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1198 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Moz,

    But I’m sure Andrew Geddis will explain how that would exceed their powers, leading Idiot/Savant to ask how that would be unusual.

    Classic! First laugh I've had today, thanks!

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Alfie,

    I can tell you for sure, that the Uber drivers have not agreed to strike. Not Not Agreed, isn't Agreed To Not. I was there. I minuted the damned meeting, it never happened.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to BeShakey,

    Way back I did some work for the Ministry of Transport because someone noticed that sharing a ride…

    That’s interesting, BeShakey. How long ago was that? What was your involvement?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to BenWilson,

    Not Not Agreed, isn’t Agreed To Not. I was there. I minuted the damned meeting, it never happened.

    Gah, too clever by half. First not should be "Note".

    We barely discussed going on strike. That's way too premature.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • goforit,

    hi Ben, you have certainly gained a lot of knowledge in respect to Uber. I agree with you on the subjuct of P endorsements and COFs, reading through you blog i noticed or think I have you have found away to by pass the PSL you as a owner/operator should have or do you not need one anymore. Keep up the good work

    Auckland • Since May 2016 • 314 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to goforit,

    There is no legal way to bypass the PSL, goforit. You either get one yourself by passing the Knowledge of Law and Practice course, getting police vetted again, and paying for it. Or you work under someone else's one, carrying with you proof of your arrangement with that party.

    Or you drive without it, and risk a huge fine.

    I've heard that today, the Police are carefully checking for this and other things on all Ubers passing through Auckland Airport. Make sure you are compliant. Don't forget the logbook. Really important.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • goforit,

    Are you saying one can operate your own car by using another person PSL. I was under the impression unless you are actually employed to drive for the PSL holder you must have your own PSL. Maybe I have been given wrong information.

    Auckland • Since May 2016 • 314 posts Report Reply

  • goforit,

    Just reread the blogs. I see you do not hold your own PSL but use someone else's for 5% of the take. Think you need to take another look at the Transport Act. You need your own PSL to operate a passenger service on your own behalf. The fine for breech of this regulation is $10000 to $25000.

    Auckland • Since May 2016 • 314 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to goforit,

    You're asking a very hard question goforit. It's likely that what you're saying is technically correct, but, like the metering, it borders on the unenforceable, because it involves an enforcement officer reading an employment contract on the side of the road. Believe me, this one has me worried. It was not like I didn't ask for advice on this when considering the options presented to me upon signing up to Uber. Their advice was quite literally useless. It depended on who you spoke to. NZTA were more helpful, and it seemed to me like what you're saying was their line. But hundreds upon hundreds of drivers had been signed up in the way I did it, and not being a lawyer, I could not be sure of the truth of the matter.

    At the end of the day, I'd rather work under contract than as an employee in this situation, because it seemed to protect my rights better, was a much simpler arrangement by far. I may be quite wrong about this. I was certainly not in a position to spend money on legal advice to get to the bottom of it, and the Uber staff's position that no one had ever even been checked out on this aspect of the compliance in all of their time operating in NZ was something that I, in a position of total weakness, was prepared to take at face value. Obviously I've come to doubt their honesty in all matters of advice on the legality of their operations, otherwise I would not have written this blog in the first place.

    So yes, I think that it's possible, on reflection, that in order to only be that little bit uncompliant (running a meter), rather than only a little bit more (some strange part of employment law that I don't understand at all), I would probably have been better to get my own PSL, at a further cost of $450, another police check, another set of exams, and another delay of unknown length, before I could hit the road to earn what is turning out to be little more than minimum wage. It is possible that the business model of several of the PSL licence holders is illegal. These questions are above my pay grade and I welcome expert opinion on them.

    As far as I'm aware, in recent days enforcement officers have been targeting Uber drivers at the airport. None of them have reported having their employment documentation checked. The checks have been limited to what it is practical for the officers to check: Driver Licence. P Endorsement. TSL displayed. COF current. Log book in order.

    Enforcement officers are not lawyers either. I think the idea of them reading an employment contract and then following up with some kind of tax audit to discover the truth of your employment status is just one of those laws that was never well conceived, and would be held in reserve only in cases where they pretty much wanted to throw the entire book at you. The other ones are much more clearly related to public safety, are more easily checked, and thus much lower hanging fruit.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • goforit,

    I fully understand where you are coming from, to complete the process and to completely hide the fact you are subcontracting (this is against the current regs) you need to have a paper trail, the car, hp agreement (if you have one) and insurance needs to be in the name of the PSL holder. You need an employment agreement, the PSL holder needs a wage book as legally you can only work for wages and the PSL holder needs to collect the PAYE off you and pay the IRD monthly. On the bright side and I have been dione for this the PSL holder is the only person responsbile to the IRD for taxes both income and GST, so you don't need to pay anything to the IRD. Another bright note in your favour is the NZTA has last its teeth so you can actually get away with blue murder but be careful of the police.

    Auckland • Since May 2016 • 314 posts Report Reply

  • Bob van Ruyssevelt,

    I have actually passed the requirements for the PSL but I have not uplifted the certificate because although I am registered with Uber I am technically contracted to the company which owns and leases to me my vehicle. Uber pays them and they pay me. Therefore I am entitled to operate under the company's PSL and insurance and I carry papers to show that in my car. I have already paid for and passed the police check (which took over 8 weeks) in the process of obtaining my P endorsement. If I should buy my own car I would need to carry my own PSL.

    Auckland • Since Apr 2016 • 5 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to goforit,

    You need an employment agreement, the PSL holder needs a wage book as legally you can only work for wages and the PSL holder needs to collect the PAYE off you and pay the IRD monthly.

    I would be surprised if any Uber drivers are working in this way. Paying a driver a wage would be extremely difficult if you don't book them work yourself. They could easily just sit their car down in an area of low demand and get paid a wage for doing nothing. I understand this is already a perverse outcome of the guaranteed minimum hourly rates.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • goforit,

    Bob, answer to your question, seeing you have your own PSL use it, save yourself the 5% the company is charging you to use someone elses PSL. The company cannot subcontract as they are currently doing, when the new regulations become law anytime in the next two years or so and if the company is an ATO you can do what you are doing now but not until the law is passed.

    Auckland • Since May 2016 • 314 posts Report Reply

  • goforit,

    Ben the employment agreement is only a cover to give the appearance of being above board. Unless you are the actual named holder of the PSL you have to give the appearance of being employed by the PSL holder, remember Uber is not the law of this country

    Auckland • Since May 2016 • 314 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to goforit,

    They sure aren't and will probably realize this sooner rather than later.

    I'm curious whether you can give me an example of a firm that pays a wage to someone driving under their PSL? It seems like the kind of thing that you could only do with someone who had a regular run, a bus route kind of thing, perhaps an airport shuttle.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

  • goforit,

    Hi Ben, actuall employed drivers are very rear these days due mainly to the very low profits of the small passenger transport system, companies like Uber have driven prices down which of course has been followed by most operators (even taxi services are effected). In the past the wage was usually commissioned based usually 40% after the deduction of the GST content. There was usually a minium wage conpoment if the commission dropped below a certain amount, in this day and age the minium wage is I think $14.50 and most days your turnover would be close to that most days.
    Now you proberly get an idea why taxi meters are set where they are, everyone needs to be able to live off the work they do, its not all about the customers getting a really cheap deal.

    Auckland • Since May 2016 • 314 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to goforit,

    Now you proberly get an idea why taxi meters are set where they are, everyone needs to be able to live off the work they do, its not all about the customers getting a really cheap deal.

    Especially when a lot of taxi drivers happen to be migrants who, for various reasons, can't find jobs in their chosen field.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5420 posts Report Reply

  • goforit,

    Very true, the small passenger transport service even before Uber was over loaded with vehicles and that not only counting taxis there are all sorts of passenger service vehicles out there. The pie will only support so many feeding off it

    Auckland • Since May 2016 • 314 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to goforit,

    Now you proberly get an idea why taxi meters are set where they are, everyone needs to be able to live off the work they do, its not all about the customers getting a really cheap deal.

    Quite. From conversations with a lot of riders, I'm surprised how often the price is not the clincher for them. They genuinely think Uber is a better service, based on the other aspects.

    As for the right to the wage, it's a very tough one, because taxis operate under a very different model. They get the off-street pickup, can stand in the most conveniently located places in taxi stands, and can refuse fares as they please (or at least so many of the riders claim). The refusal is often based on the distance the person wants to go. I'm not sure if this is legal, but it certainly happens all the time. Haggling with a driver is really common. But they don't have an app that gets them efficiently to the nearest fare at a moment's notice. Which probably explains the reluctance to do short trips, particularly since those involve relinquishing a sweet spot in a cab rank.

    I don't have to fight for a spot on Ponsonby Rd outside a popular night club and stand there touting for business and haggling. I can park around the corner and just sit there, and the calls just come rolling in when it's busy. They find me, and then into the car in an orderly manner, rather than double parked beside an angry taxi, with drunks getting in from the middle of the road. Likewise at the other end of the trip. Quite a lot of the time the trips are "back to back". I get a request based on my destination, and drive straight to the other rider without any wait at all. It's a very efficient use of the vehicle resource.

    It's also a very efficient use of the human resource inside the vehicle, which makes it harder work, I'd say, than driving a taxi. Taxis get to do much longer shifts before the mandatory break, in acknowledgement that actually they're standing around doing nothing for a whole lot of the time. Ubers are stuck with the 5.5 hour limit, and I think even that's quite a long time when it's hammer time. It's like a drive to Ohakune from Auckland without stopping.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10641 posts Report Reply

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